Press Release from the LOCSD
(for immediate release)
WATER BOARD CANCELS HEARING FOR LOS OSOS Citizen CDO’s
(Cease and Desist Orders)
NEW LEGAL COUNSEL for Prosecution Team TO BE OBTAINED
The latest twist in the long-fought battle between the Regional Water Quality Control Board and the 4500+ septic tank owners of Los Osos occurred late Friday afternoon when the Water Board announced that proceedings to issue Cease and Desist Orders to the first wave of 45 septic tank owners in Los Osos will be halted mid-stream, to allow the Water Board’s Prosecution Team to obtain new legal counsel. Such announcement comes on the heels of a vehement argument raised by the Los Osos Community Services District’s lawyers at the start of the hearings that the proceedings were tainted because two of the Water Board’s key advisors, attorney Lori Okun and Executive Officer Roger Briggs, were also key members of the Prosecution Team. The District’s lawyers moved to dismiss the proceedings, alleging that such practice was unconstitutional and resulted in a biased and unfair hearing. The District’s motion was denied at the Friday hearing, which continued from 10 am -10 pm and was to be continued on May 11-12.
But in a letter dated May 4, the Prosecution Team requested that the Water Board put a halt to proceedings to allow the Prosecution Team to obtain new legal counsel. On Friday, the Water Board granted that request and set a meeting for May 11 at 10 am at Water Board headquarters in San Luis Obispo to discuss what to do next.
When asked about the ruling, District lead counsel Stephen Onstot stated “it’s a good start, but doesn’t go far enough. The Prosecution Team already presented its case, so the damage has already been done. You can’t un-ring the bell. Mr. Briggs advises the Board as well and he, too, should be disqualified from being a prosecutor. The law is also clear that the Water Board members who heard Ms. Okun’s and Mr. Briggs’ prosecution case must now recuse themselves from participating in deliberations on whether to issue the Cease and Desist Orders.” If that is the case, the Water Board would be put in a difficult position, for it would not have enough eligible members to constitute the quorum necessary to proceed against the septic tank owners. END
Well, there’s a few new wrinkles. Replace the whole Board for this trial? Import new Board members? Move the trial to Kettleman City? Have 4,500 homeowners trek down Highway 46 aka “Blood Alley” for 12-hour hearings? Yikes.
Plus, I hate to keep sticking it to the Tribune but this one’s a true puzzle. The ruling pertains to the creation of a new state Office of Enforcement and there’s not a word about it in the Tribune. Clearly, the structure of the RWQCB is such that it inadvertently created this problem of bias with no independent checks or balances, a system that has been in force yet out of balance for years. And this is a statewide problem that could have wide-ranging consequences (are old cases going to be appealed? retried? thrown out? What??), yet there’s nary a peep out of the Tribune about any of this. The little blurb they did run made it sound like this was simply a minor, local matter arising only out of the recent CDOs, a matter that could be quickly settled so the whole mad CDO scheme could move rapidly forward. From this press release, there may be even more trouble ahead, even if The Grand Inquisitor General does ride into town. For example, there’s the little matter of GIGO. Unless the Grand Inquisitor General is also an expert soil scientist and expert in all things septic, he won’t know that the information the local staff is giving him may be fatally flawed, so the whole cockamamie thing could collapse in a heap when it winds its way through the “administrative” type hearings and lands in a “real” court of law. Then there’s the matter of . . . Roger Briggs. What ever shall we do about Roger?
Once again, what can I say except, It’s Sewerville. Stay tuned.