– November 22, 2014

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gordonwebster Gordon Webster - Publisher
gordonwebster Gabriel Dillard - Managing Editor

Latest Local News

Written on 11/21/2014, 4:40 pm by Business Journal staff
Valley Commerce Bancorp, parent company of Valley Business Bank of Visalia, announced an eight-cent cash dividend to its shareholders for the fourth...
Written on 11/21/2014, 11:35 am by Business Journal staff
Fresno State President Joseph Castro has selected Central Valley native Jim Bartko as the university's new athletic director. Bartko, 49, comes to Fresno State from the University of Oregon, where he has served as executive senior associate athletic director since 2007. He replaces Fresno State's former athletic director Thomas Boeh, who stepped down Aug. 15 after 10 years in the position for a new role as Castro's special assistant. Born in Stockton, Bartko attended schools there and later graduated from Central Catholic High School in Modesto. After earning his bachelor's degree in sports at Washington State University in Pullman, he went on to become senior associate athletic director at the University of Oregon in 1989. In 2006, he got a job at the University of California, Berkeley as senior associate athletic director for development until he moved back to the University of Oregon about a year later. During his time there, he was instrumental in raising more than $375 million for capital improvements and facility enhancements, including the recently completed Hatfield Dowlin Complex, Matt Knight Arena and John E. Jaqua Academic Center for Students Athletes. Bartko also serves on the Athletics Executive Committee at the university and is responsible for the planning, development and oversight of the day-to-day operations of the Athletics Department Bartko and his wife, Eileen, have two children, A.J., 17 and Danielle, 12. He begins his position Jan. 1, 2015.
Written on 11/21/2014, 11:17 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — A Fresno man who stabbed his co-worker dozens of times in 1984 and then cut out the man's heart and put it in his jacket pocket has been released from prison despite objections from Gov. Jerry Brown. Theodore LeLeaux Jr. was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole for the killing of his co-worker Kenny Carlock. He was set free last week after a Fresno County judge determined he no longer posed a threat to society, the Fresno Bee reported Thursday. LeLeaux was eligible for parole in 2012 and again this year. Brown objected, and he remained in prison. A Fresno County judge overturned the decision last week, and LeLeaux was paroled to San Luis Obispo, where he lives with his wife. "It's unbelievable," Carlock's sister, Gayle McCracken said. "How can a judge overrule the governor of the state of California? I thought the governor was top dog." Police discovered Carlock's mutilated body inside his apartment on June 5, 1984. The 25-year-old man had been stabbed 77 times. LeLeaux and Carlock worked for the same mail courier service, Fresno police say. Detectives found signs of a struggle inside the apartment, as well as LeLeaux's pager, bloody work shirt and shoes, court records show. The day after the attack, LeLeaux, then 23, was arrested on suspicion of burglary. Carlock's heart was discovered in LeLeaux's jacket pocket, police said. During a parole hearing in 2008, LeLeaux said he was under the influence of methamphetamines and suffered a delusion and a psychotic break when he killed Carlock. McCracken said she plans to keep calling prison officials and the governor until she gets answers. "Someone dropped the ball because this guy is dangerous," she said. "I have told them that he will strike again, and it could be your heart the next time."___Information from: The Fresno Bee,
Written on 11/21/2014, 11:04 am by Business Journal staff
The Fresno City Council voted unanimously yesterday to begin a process of allowing water customers to vote on proposed rate increases to fund infrastructure improvements. The proposed rate hikes would raise the monthly bill for a single-family residence from $24.49 to $52.18 in five years. According to city officials, the increase will generate approximately $429 million as part of a capital plan to upgrade Fresno's water aging water system and reduce groundwater pumping. The largest chunk of $186 million would be used to build a new surface water treatment plant in southeast Fresno that will help the city make more of its contracted river water drinkable. Another $98.4 million would pay for more raw water to supply its treatment facilities, while $82.5 million targets the rehabilitation and replacement of older water pipes and wells and $55.5 million would go toward distribution. For the rate increases to go into effect, the city needs a majority approval of its 135,000 water customers. The city council's vote initiated the Proposition 218 process that mandates how California cities go about raising taxes or property related assessments and fees. Ballots will be mailed on Dec. 22. Fresno's water customers, including property owners and tenants, will then have 45 days to return them if they don't approve of the city's plan. A vote of yes will be counted for all those that are not returned. The city council will then take up the proposed rate and infrastructure plan for final approval on Feb. 5 at 5 p.m. The proposed rate increases follow a similar plan last year by the city to double water rates over four years to fund $410 million in upgrades. That effort was reversed in July when the City of Fresno settled with former Fresno County Supervisor Doug Vagim, who petitioned to repeal the rate hikes. The city council also voted yesterday to amend its State 2 Water Shortage Contingency Response Plan. Instead of prohibiting all outdoor irrigation during winter months as previously enacted, the city will now allow watering one day a week from Dec. 1 to March 1, 2015, with odd-numbered addresses permitted to water on Saturdays and even-numbered addresses permitted on Sundays.
Written on 11/21/2014, 8:14 am by Business Journal staff
The Kaweah Delta Hospital Foundation is asking the community to participate in its "drive-thru giving" on Dec. 2.  To participate, people can drive in front of the Kaweah Delta Hospital Foundation office on 216 S. Johnson St. in Visalia from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and make their donations. Participants will be given a treat and all donations ail go towards the birthing center at Kaweah Delta Medical Center unless otherwise specified.  Those unable to use the drive-thru may make their donations online at or by phone at (559) 624-2359. The event is part of Giving Tuesday, a global day designed for charities, families, businesses, community centers and students around the world to come together and give back to their communities. Participants are encouraged to tell others about giving opportunities on social media using the hashtag #GivingTuesday. 
Written on 11/20/2014, 3:34 pm by Ben Keller, Business Journal staff writer
Although occupancy rates dropped in the month, Valley lodges watched business pick up in October as more rooms opened up to guests. According to a monthly lodging report by STR, the average occupancy rate in the Fresno area stood at 59.9 percent in October. That's down from 61.3 percent in September but above 58.5 percent in October 2013. The average daily rate for a room in the area fell from $83.46 in September to $82.66 in the latest month, still up from $79.91 last year. Over the last month, the supply of rooms increased from 307,290 to 317,533. Fresno area lodges also reported increased revenues of $15.73 million in October compared to $15.71 million the prior month and $14.91 million a year ago. Tulare/Visalia area lodges saw the average occupancy rate fall to 75.1 percent in October from 76 percent in September, still an increase from 63 percent last year. The area's average daily rate stood at $86.81 in the month compared to $90.59 in September and $82.63 a year ago. The supply of rooms in the Tulare/Visalia area was at 175,894 in October, up from 162,555 the month before. Revenues picked up as well, going from $11.16 million in September to $11.47 million in October. That's also up from $9.15 million in October 2013. Statewide, the average occupancy rate stood at 75.4 percent in October, up from 73.5 percent in September and 72.6 percent a year ago. The average daily rate for a room in California stood at $146.69 in the latest month compared to $143.42 in September and $98.83 in September 2013. With a combined supply of just more than 15.66 million rooms in the month, lodges in the state reported revenues of around $1.73 billion in September, up from $1.6 billion the month and $1.54 billion the year before.
Written on 11/20/2014, 1:47 pm by Business Journal staff
Central Valley Community Bancorp, parent company of Central Valley Community Bank of Fresno, announced a regular quarterly cash dividend of 5 cents per share. The dividend is payable on Dec. 29 to shareholders of record as of Dec. 15. With just more than 10.92 million shares outstanding, the payout totals approximately $546,400. Established in 1979, Central Valley Community Bank operates 21 full-service locations between Sacramento and Visalia. The company recently reported a third quarter net income of $2.35 million, down nearly 21 percent from the third quarter of 2013. For the first nine months of the year, however, net income is up 26.8 percent from the year before to $7.66 million.
Written on 11/20/2014, 11:00 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Democratic Rep. Jim Costa of Fresno narrowly avoided one of the biggest upsets of the midterm elections, edging out his Republican challenger Wednesday in a contest that neither of the two parties expected to be so close. His re-election to a sixth term leaves just one California congressional race undecided. Democratic Rep. Ami Bera, who won his suburban Sacramento seat just two years ago, was clinging to a narrow lead over his Republican challenger, former Congressman Doug Ose. Costa won after the three counties included in his 16th Congressional District — Fresno, Merced and Madera — released updated ballot counts Wednesday afternoon. He was up by about 1,300 votes out of more than 90,000 ballots cast, and his opponent, Johnny Tacherra, could not catch up with the relatively few ballots that remained uncounted. The robust challenge to Costa, whose family has farmed in the San Joaquin Valley for more than 80 years, was a surprise. Tacherra, a dairy farmer, flew so far under the radar that national and state Republicans pretty much ignored him. Costa outspent Tacherra by a margin of roughly 3-to-1, and he benefited from a 16-point voter registration edge for Democrats in the district. He had won his 2012 race by a comparable margin. But Costa, a longtime member of the state Legislature before entering Congress, also represented a heavily agricultural district that has been struggling with the effects of California's three-year drought. Many farmers blamed the federal government for making the situation worse. Tacherra seized on that frustration, accusing Costa in ads as being a rubber stamp for the "Obama agenda" and "failing us on our basic rights to water."
Written on 11/20/2014, 10:56 am by Gabriel Dillard
In the wake of a high-profile security breach, Fresno’s United Security Bank has adopted tighter security measures in hopes of protecting customers. The move comes as the banking and retail industries focuses its attention to cyber security as more hacking incidents emerge compromising millions of customers. United Security Bank agreed in June to pay $350,000 to Bakersfield oil company TRC Operating Co. to settle litigation stemming from a 2011 cyber fraud incident. Dennis Woods, president and CEO of United Security Bank, said the bank has taken on additional security measures to protect corporate customers that frequently use the online money-wiring system. TRC accounts were compromised in 2011 when 12 unauthorized transfers totaling more than $3.45 million were sent through United Security Bank’s system. The bank was able to recover all but $299,600 from the scam, which is believed to have originated in Ukraine. To help prevent such activity, Woods said the bank has added a second layer of authentication in the form of a token in addition to a password. In addition, certain online wire transfers — especially ones to foreign countries — will generate a manual call back from the bank to the customer to verify the activity, he added. Customers who use the wire transfer system are also required to take a 30-minute online training course on how to protect their own private information. “It’s a little more work, but a lot more security for them,” Woods said. “We are going back to Internet banking 101,” he added. High threat levelA recent article in American Banker magazine notes that as it gets less expensive for hackers to use the Web to steal data, it’s more expensive for banks to protect against those intrusions. Julie Bonnel-Rogers is a business litigation attorney with the Mezzetti Law Firm in San Jose. Bonnel-Rogers represented TRC in its lawsuit against United Security Bank. She said the global cyber security threat is increasing each day. "The wrongdoers are becoming more sophisticated,” she said. “It’s an ongoing war.” When it comes to online banking, Bonnel-Rogers said any small business is susceptible to any type of security breach. And once thieves have stolen what they were looking for, it’s hard for the customer to get that money back from the bank, she added. Litigation is often the only redress, and that can be a losing proposition for the customer in terms of cost. The escrow industry — with its large deposits of money sitting idle in accounts — is especially susceptible, Bonnel-Rogers said. A February report from California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris relayed the story of Efficient Services Escrow Group in Huntington Beach. The company was a victim of a cyberheist worth $1.5 million, and was forced to close and lay off its entire staff. The company’s other money is in the hands of a court-appointed receiver as the company preps a lawsuit against its financial institution. Communication is keyBonnel-Rogers suggests that banking customers be aware of the measures their institution takes to protect data. Customers should seek out multiple-factor authentication systems, and not be afraid to shop around and compare among banks. She said large national banks and banks that use a third-party solution for their banking system are best positioned to protect customers. She said it’s also the bank’s responsibility for the information technology department to be in contact with the sales and marketing departments to effectively communicate those measures to customers. Some insurance company’s also offer data breach insurance to business clients that would protect the company in the case of an incident. The state Attorney General report illustrates how pervasive the problem is among small companies. It found that that 50 percent of all targeted attacks in 2012 were aimed at business with less than 2,500 employees. Businesses with fewer than 250 employees were the target of 31 percent of all cyber attacks. --- Steps businesses should take to protect data 1.    Assume you’re a target — any company can be a victim, regardless of size or profile in the community. 2.    Lead by example — business owners and executive management shouldn’t see cyber security as the domain of the IT person. 3.    Map your data — know what types of data you have and the location of the data. 4.    Encrypt your data — encrypting data encodes it so those without encryption keys cannot read it. 5.    Bank securely — business owners should only perform online banking functions on a secure browser connection, and in a browser’s “private mode” so browser cache, temporary Internet files, cookies and browser history will not be recorded. 6.    Defend yourself — use available security measures, including firewalls, antivirus software and other Internet security solutions, including the ability to remotely locate or “wipe” a device that has gone missing. 7.    Educate employees — confer to your workers the value of your business’s intellectual property to help prevent data loss or insider risks. 8.    Be password wise — change any default username or passwords on any device, since anything is better than the default, and don’t let browsers remember your passwords. 9.    Operate securely — use layered security defenses and keep all operating systems and software up to date, and don’t install software you did not specifically seek out. 10.     Plan for the worst — every business should have a disaster recovery plan so when an incident occurs, there will be a defined incident response team with a leader, and everyone has clear responsibilities should an incident arise. Source: “Cybersecurity in the Golden State” report by Attorney General Kamala D. Harris.
Written on 11/20/2014, 10:41 am by Business Journal staff
Fresno business owner Alexander Ott is bringing women's soccer to the area next May when the Fresno Freeze begins its inaugural season. The team will compete against more than 75 other teams across the U.S. as part of the Women's Premier Soccer League, which has featured nationally known players including Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Abby Wambach. Fresno Freeze's owner Alexander Ott, 39, is also co-owner of Ott & Davidson Consulting in Fresno and has been executive director of the California Blueberry Commission since 2010. Ott comes from a soccer background, having played in high school and collegiately. His daughter also plays soccer in a local youth club. "We hope to inspire the many young female soccer players in our community to strive to someday put on a Freeze jersey in their path to professional soccer careers," said Ott in a release. "This is a great opportunity to expand the women’s game, while showcasing talent at one of the highest levels in women’s sports." As the team's general manager, Ott selected Jeremy Schultz, general manager of Fresno Fuego soccer team since 2008 and the man responsible for bringing the Central California Cup to downtown Fresno. The two met through their daughters that play in the same local soccer team. "This is an incredible opportunity to have two senior level clubs collaborate for the good of soccer and ultimately provide a platform to showcase our elite local talent," said Schultz. "There are so many kids playing soccer. It's taking off." Fresno Freeze will be hosting a combine Jan. 3-4, 2015 at Clovis East High School as it seeks a roster of 26 players to join the team. The cost to enter is $60 and the deadline to register is Dec. 19. Registration and other information about the team can be found at other newcomers have also joined the Women's Premier Soccer League for the 2015 season, including teams in Baja California, Mexico, Washington D.C., Florida and two in Virginia. Fresno Freeze will play in the league's Pacific-North Region.

Latest State News

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