In search of the black cat: There have been reported sightings over the past several years of a "large black cat" prowling in the hills west of the Interstate 680 corridor, in both Contra Costa and Alameda counties. The Eye hasn't seen such a creature itself, but reports in past years have come from the Pleasanton, Castro Valley and Danville areas.

The Eye was told Wednesday night of another such sighting by Wayne Feickert, of Walnut Creek, this one off Tice Valley Boulevard in Walnut Creek near the Byron Park Senior Community.

"I am from Oregon and was brought up doing lots of camping and hunting from an early age," Feickert said. "I have seen mountain lions and bobcats in Oregon on occasion."

He made a few photos at the scene Wednesday. Though blurry and inconclusive -- "All this happened before I could set my camera to its proper settings," he said -- it's not hard to see in one frame he captured what could be a big black cat.

Mountain lions live in this area, of course. Most folks never see a standard light brown one, much less a black one; wildlife specialists for the East Bay Regional Park District and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife have said it's highly unlikely -- though not impossible -- such a black cat calls the East Bay home. Such sightings, they say, are more typically bobcats, or even large black house cats.

Feickert says he knows what he saw; he photographed a nearby deer and the catlike image appears to be of similar size.


Advertisement

"I saw this thing with my own eyes, and it was very big," he said.

COURTROOM HANGOVER: The Eye caught quite a show recently in Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge William Kolin's Martinez courtroom courtesy of a man who spent his time in the gallery snoring loudly.

The disheveled audience member, his belt still in hand from walking through courthouse security, was doubled over in the pew and wheezing so loudly that The Eye could barely hear a Contra Costa family tell the judge about the injuries they suffered as a result of a hit-and-run driver who was about to be sentenced.

Giggles, sneers and annoyed mewls by the people around him drew the attention of bailiffs, who quickly escorted the offending man out of the courtroom to tell him to wake up or suffer the consequences.

He was back in his seat moments later only to fall asleep, and snore loudly, again.

Bailiffs brought him outside again but this time arrested him.

He was then escorted back into the same courtroom where he was arraigned for ... wait for it ... public intoxication.

GOODBYE DOREEN, HELLO DOREEN: The retirement of Hercules' longtime city clerk, Doreen Mathews, created some embarrassment at the June 25 City Council meeting when it turned out nobody had put an acknowledgment on the agenda.

"This is something I usually do," Mathews said in an email, "but I wasn't going to add my own proclamation to the agenda."

Mayor John Delgado deftly took some of the sting out of the omission by declaring a "Moment of Admiration" in lieu of the usual "Moment of Silence."

He praised Mathews for almost two decades of loyal service to the city, the past 14 years as city clerk.

Now it turns out Mathews won't leave after all. The city has hired her back starting Thursday, to fill in on a temporary basis, mostly as real property manager. Under the Public Employees Pension Reform Act of 2013, Mathews normally would have to wait six months, but the city got around that by invoking a "critical need" provision in the law. As Delgado put it, perhaps prophetically, in his proclamation, "(Mathews) has been the glue that holds Hercules City Hall together, with her ability to remember past history and locate the needed information."

Staff writers Sam Richards, Malaika Fraley and Tom Lochner contributed to this column.