Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Flee For Your Lives! . . . Oh, Wait . . . nevermind . . .

First it was "The Gong Show," with the CSD Board majority claiming a letter from some guy from Los Osos was responsible for raising the cost of the sewer bids and then spending your tax dollars to try to shut the guy up.

Now, we have "Saturday Night Live," with CSD Directors Stan Gustafson and Richard LeGros standing in for the late Gilda Radner’s delightfully goofy Emily Latella, that woefully confused crank who rattled on about "violence" in the streets before being informed that the word she was mishearing was "violins," not "violence." Blinking into the camera, she would then sheepishly whine, "Oh . . . well . . . nevermind."

Directors Gustafson and LeGros signed papers in April asking a judge for a restraining order against Los Osos businessman, Richard Margetson, stating, under penalty of perjury, that Margetson committed acts of violence, threatened to commit acts of violence, seriously alarmed, annoyed and harassed them.

Mr. Gustafson even told the Tribune, "I believe he was threatening my life." And so they wanted the Judge to please, please Your Honor keep that horrible Mr. Margetson at least 100 feet away from them at all times, which would preclude being anywhere near the Community Center during a series of critical votes on sewer funding and contract issues. Their requests for a temporary restraining order until a full hearing on the claims could be held were repeatedly denied.

So, who is Mr. Margetson that these two Directors wanted to keep so far away from themselves that, in effect, he would also be unable to attend any public meetings during these critical series of votes on the sewer? Well, Margetson was one of the people instrumental in bringing to the public’s attention the price differences between simply accepting the CSD’s proposal for a fire tax increase, versus waiting and getting a competing bid for the same services from the CDF.

Thanks to Mr. Margetson’s efforts, the public voted down the original CSD proposal and then had the chance to vote for the new CDF plan, thereby saving themselves pots of money. Without Margetson's sustained efforts to inform them, the public would have been unaware that they had any choice in the matter.

As an elected official, is that the kinda guy you don’t want hanging around public meetings asking pointed policy questions? You betcha! So, how do you shut him up, shut him out, shut him down? Well, you file ginned-up civil harassment charges, under penalty of perjury, as part of a SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation), a tactic to put a warning shot across the bow of any member of the public who dares disagree with you that you will use the power and might of the courts and police to shut you up.

What put this into the "Saturday Night Live" category is that from April to July, Mr. Margetson, Mr. Gustafson and Mr. LeGros all regularly attended CSD meetings, and everyone was all Chatty-Kathy--no armed guards, no bandolier-crossed militia, no weapons searches and pat-downs at the door. Is that how you treat a person you have sworn, under penalty of perjury, is threatening acts of violence against you?

Even sillier, on July, LeGros and Gustafson and their attorney, Karol Vogt, wandered into court with a request to withdraw their petition because [they] had "already realized the benefits of the requested injunction and that [they] wanted to dismiss the action." The request further stated that Mr. LeGros told lawyer Vogt "that Defendant did not harass, attack, strike, threaten, assault, hit, follow, stalk him." Instead, Mr. LeGros had sought the injunction for the critical sewer vote time period and now that the vote was over--heh-heh, . . . nevermind.


And now the questions: By any stretch of the imagination, was the civil harassment petition credible? Did these two CSD Directors commit perjury? Are using SLAPP suits to silence people who disagree with a policy or project what the citizens in this community want their CSD Directors to be doing? And what questions and information could Mr. Margetson possibly have brought forward during this critical vote and public comment period that made these Directors so scared that they were willing to use any ginned-up means possible to try to shut him up?

I think even Emily Latella would consider those important questions to answer before the Recall Election on Sept 27th.


Terrence said...

Yikes. "...already realized the benefits of the requested injunction..." Yes they did. To me that plainly sounds like an admission to the SLAPP. It's also likely they withdrew their petition because they knew the judge would dismiss the case, and under California's "anti-SLAPP" statute Margetson would be entitled to reimbursement of any legal expenses. Not only did they succeed in shushing him they also weaseled out of having to pay for his defense.

When I saw your reference to the SLAPP I just had to Google it out of curiosity. Interesting topic.

Survival Guide for SLAPP Victims:

Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16:

Churadogs said...

Thanks for your comment and the posting of the SLAPP web sites and info.

Yep, the whole thing was "Political Theatre," and a disgrace, but the question remains: Was anyone paying attention?

mike said...

I was paying attention, The people of Los Osos have been poorly served by almost (ok ,ALL) of the government entitys that they have been subject to, It's no wonder recalls and initiatives get passed here, almost ANY idea sounds better than what we have been sold.
Those three should have resigned when they failed in their promise of "faster, better, cheaper" If they had, and dissolved the CSD, as they should have, The county would be on the hook for this project, (remember, the county board of supervisors are the ORIGINATORS of this mess, without their poor governance, none of this would have happened!) Thank you Ann, for keeping the heat on! Mike Green, Los Osos

Spectator said...

A great many people in Los Osos avoid LOCSD meetings because they are afraid of wild eyed activists bent on stopping the sewer. I have personally seen these rude and slanderous people try and thwart democratic process, and hyjack meetings, making them last until 3AM.
I see them here in Los Osos while driving to San Luis Obispo, jumping up and down, waving signs, and opposing the cutting of stinky, dirty eucalyptus trees and having them replaced by native trees.

Jesters and fools have a place in democracy, and bring well welcomed humor, but enough is enough.

Churadogs said...

Jesters and fools are part and parcel of a democracy. As is the right of a people to petition their government for redress of grievances -- that's a fundamental part of our government, which is why I find it funny that people are offended by recalls and initiatives, and protests, and petitions & etc. Those all ARE part of our form of government -- messy, often loud, often silly, but vital. As is a vote on major matters that effect our lives. That's also a puzzle to me, people who are adamant against both the recall and the initiative: Why fear a vote? If you Trust The Truth, you'll Trust The People to make the right decision concerning their community. So many of the Save The Dreamers apparently think the recall will prevail. Why would they think that? If this sewer plan is so wonderful for the town, if the CSD is doing such a splendid job, why not wholly support the elections and encourage the people to decide? Unless you think the people of Los Osos are all fools and idiots, except, of course, you and your friends? I don't think so. I have confidence Los Ososians will decide and once they do everyone can shut up and go home since they will have spoken. And that's all they've been asking for. A voice.