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“OUR SURPRISE REUNION WITH LT. FOTHERINGHAM"
By Marc Welter and Sonya Robinson
05/12/2006 - Last week Sonya and I decided to take a drive up the coast from Ventura to Carpinteria. We enjoyed lunch in Carp and while eating decided to do a little fact finding about the local nude beaches. We formulated a quick plan and before Sonya could finish her coke were off to see the authorities.
We first went to the Carpinteria State Beach and Campground, pulled up to the entrance booth and asked the park rangers for help in deciphering exactly what jurisdictions existed along the coast. We told them we were nudists and had been going to Bates and Summerland beaches for many years and noticed they were now without nudists! They responded by giving us some pamphlets. We knew only that they worked at a state beach and didn’t have any of the answers we were looking for.
We asked to speak to their supervisor and were directed toward the park headquarters building where we met John Futoran. His card stated he was Lifeguard Supervisor / Peace Officer #1164, California State Beach / Ventura Sector of the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation. After taking a moment to read his card I figured two things; 1. This is the guy who can give us some answers, and 2. He needed a bigger card.
We talked for awhile about jurisdictions, boundaries and his role in all of this and found that out he works in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Sheriffs Dept. They back each other up, so to speak, as needed. Alas, he was not able to give us the answers we were looking for but was trying to be helpful and did give us the phone number for the main office of Santa Barbara County Parks and Recreation. It was too late in the day to drive on up to Santa Barbara so we decided to save that for another trip, however we weren’t finished yet.
We decided we would pay the Sheriff’s Office a visit, (after all they had paid us a few visits at Bates Beach over the years). The Sheriffs Dept. formerly Police dept. building is located next to the City Hall in Carpenteria and about 10 years ago, the Police and Sheriffs decided to integrate. Sonya and I first met with Sheriff Deputy J.D.Greene who was 6 months new to this office but a veteran of the Dept. I explained who we were and what we wanted, and he suggested we talk to the County Board Supervisor for Dist 1 Salud Carbajal and /or JD Greene’s Lieutenant.
This is where the story takes a little twist.
His Lieutenant was none other than Darin Fotheringham, currently in charge of the Carpenteria office and part of the Coastal Operations Bureau. What is the twist you ask? Sonya and I knew him as Officer Fotheringham from 14 years ago when he gave us and three others tickets for public nudity at Bates Beach! As Sonya and I looked at each other in the waiting room half amazed and half apprehensive, in walked the deputy with his Lieutenant and introduced us. We were then invited back to his office and reminisced about the old days.
Darin commented that we looked familiar and I explained that we had met before. After a few questions he searched his computer for a date and promptly opened his bottom drawer and pulled out an old stack of tickets and sure enough all 5 of ours were in the stack! He offered ours to us as a souvenir, but we said “No thanks, we already have a copy”! He asked if we had gone to court and what had happened. I told him that one of the group mailed in the $110.00 for the ticket, 3 of us went and talked to the District Attorney and had the ticket cut down to $55.00 which is what the statute called for, and the last one showed up in court and got off without paying a fine.
He said he remembered our case and was planning on being in court but had marked the wrong date on his calendar. He had gone to court the next day only to find out his mistake. We talked about the old days of "live and let live," and I told him I thought he owed Sonya and I $110.00 for cleaning up the beach. (The day of the tickets we had been cleaning the beach of overgrowth and trash and burning it. The sheriffs had watched us from atop for several hours and waited till we started burning the trash before coming down and citing us for nudity, not the fire.) We all had a good laugh and then we got some of the info we were looking for.
Darin said the sheriffs have to investigate any complaint, and that over the past few years he has had multiple complaints coming in to his office about nudity. He said the way the community is changing, with more families moving to the area and using the beaches, it would be hard to regain them for our purposes.
“You weren’t the problem,” he said. “The problem was the people you attracted.” (The sheriffs had received numerous calls about sexual acts, drug use and nudity on the cliffs above the nude beach and in the parking lot at Bates). The Lieutenant also spoke about the development above the beach planned for the future and the climate of thinking in the community making it harder to go back to the way it was. This also holds true for the former nude beach at Summerland and to a lesser extent More Mesa. The sheriffs still patrol More Mesa but on a less regular basis. Tickets will be given out when nudity is encountered. Under the changing political climate, he said he has no choice, he has to enforce the laws on the books. However, Darin stated he had empathy for our situation.
Due to a derogatory local newspaper article, Darin said he was getting ready to address his men on the nudity issue once again and to step up policing of the beaches. We wondered if our meeting might have also prompted him to a higher level of alertness.
As our meeting ended, he thanked us for coming in, admired our approach and suggested we contact the County Board to either to change or amend the existing law. Until the DA stops prosecuting, he concluded, the deputies will keep issuing tickets. So our next stop will be to the DA's office.