Eeek! They’re “misappropriating my public funds!” Call the Fair Political Practices Cops! Oh, wait, they’re all out to lunch. Call the DA!. No, he doesn’t give a foodle. Call my lawyer! I’ll file a criminal complaint myself! Ah, now you’re talking.
Ah, yes, the CSD is at it again. On the local public TV channel, they’ve been using taxpayer money to run excerpts from one of the reeeeellly scary Regional Water Quality Control Board’s letters threatening Los Osos with FINES! FINES! FINES! if they don’t do as they’re told, doo-dee-dooo-doo, doo-dee-doooo-doo.
So, what’s wrong with that, you might ask, since it’s perfectly proper to use tax payer money to air “factual information” about an upcoming election? Ah, well, let’s listen to what Julie Hayward Biggs of Burke, Williams & Sorensen (Attorneys at Law) has to say about what the CSD is up to in a letter addressed to Jon Seitz, Esq. (The CSD's attorney) dated August 23, 2005:
“While superficially it [the ad]purports simply to recount portions of letters received by the District relating to the wastewater treatment facilities project, in fact it presents a one-sided view of the status of that project and is clearly designed to frighten and dissuade citizens from supporting the upcoming recall and initiative elections. Although the District has cleverly not made comments in that regard, the presentation of only these letters during the 30 days prior to the upcoming elections is disingenuous. The violation of the law exposes those individual employees and directors who have authorized or participated in the airing of the commercial to significant legal liability for misappropriation of public funds under the provisions of Penal Code Section 504.”
Disingenuous? Our very own CSD, Disingenous?? Why, we’re shocked – SHOCKED!
Ms. Biggs goes on, “While it has been argued by representatives of the district, including its Public Information Official [that’d be Mike Drake who, if you recall, promised NO SPIN, remember?], that the commercial that has been prepared by the District at District expense and direction is merely ‘informational,’ there can be no question that it is one-sided and biased and does not provide information on both sides of the issue.” . . . Furthermore, she notes that a “. . . legislative body can legally vote to support or oppose a measure or cause without engaging in illegal advocacy of a partisan position and without making an improper expenditure of public funds. . . . That is not what has happened here. The commercial has apparently been prepared without notification to the Board and represents a distinct change in programming. No debate is presented, simply purported negative consequences that the majority of the Board wish the public to believe will occur if the recall and initiative are passed. . . . The abuse of power represented by this latest attempt to threaten and intimate the public with misleading information is unfortunately the hallmark of the current District Board majority and management.”
She then goes on to note that the District Attorney, the Attorney General and the Fair Political Practices Commission will be notified in hopes that they’ll take some action.
Bwa-hahahahah. At least so far as the FPPC is concerned, they’ll take action somewhere around the year 3025, maybe. With luck, Ms. Biggs will get a bed-bug, boiler-plate letter from them, a letter that views with alarm and points with dismay and tisk-tisks that my, my isn’t it all unfortunate but alas, since the election is now over and is like, so moot, why then, we needn’t take any action at this time. Perhaps in the year 4075 or something.
And I won’t hold my breath waiting to hear from the DA’s.
On the 24th of August, Bruce Buel, the General Manager of the CSD, got a similar letter from “Californians Aware, The Center for Public Forum Rights.” It basically notes the same problem of using public resources for partisan, biased, not-really-informational informational commercials using public money. The author of that missive, Terry Francke, General Counsel of Californians Aware, states that he personally has no stake in this ballot measure, but does note that “any person holding a competing conviction could file a criminal complaint under Section 8314,” so Mr. Buel and the CSD Directors “may wish to reconsider using public resources to produce this selective alarm.”(The selective alarm being the EEEK!EEEK!FINES!FINES RWQCB letter excerpts intending to scare the panties off the community, do-deee dooo-doo, do-deee-dooo-do) but only in an “informational” way, mind you.)
In other words, if there’s someone out there in Los Osos Land who’s really ticked off that Mr. Buel and certain CSD Board members are misusing public funds, he or she should file a criminal complaint.
Gosh, I sure hope somebody does because that would be a wonderful example of the Laws of Karma at work. If you recall, dear and gentle blog-gazer, two members of the CSD Board filed a ridiculous, ginned up restraining order against a local businessman in order to shut him up, then withdrew it saying, oh, well, nevermind. Finding themselves on the service end of a criminal complaint would strike a nice balance, methinks.
Meantime, our well paid No Spin Public Information Officer needs to do a little No Spin ‘splaining, mainly how it's possible for such a well paid guy like him not to know the ad coming out of his office wouldn't set off alarm bells all over town. The law is very clear on this matter. Whatever tax money is spent on anything involving a political issue, bond campaigns, initiatives, etc. must not only be factual and accurate, but it must be fair and balanced.
Clearly, these commercials aren’t, hence two – count ‘em TWO – letters from two attorneys. But will our CSD pay any attention? Naw. Will our dear and gentle citizens be gulled by the misleading spin going out over the airwaves?
Ah, I can’t say. We’ll have to wait and find that out on Sept 27.