Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Start Yer Engines, Part HUH?

I closed my previous Blog entry noting that the warring factions in Los Osos were starting their engines in a slogging slugfest race to the cliff. Oh, how right I was, if the various folks who add comments here on this blog site are any indication. Jihadi alert! The following is strictly for confirmed “Sewerites.” Vroom! Vroom!

Someone signing himself “Richard LeGros” (one of the recalled CSD Board members) has sent several “Open Letters” to the CSD, among other places. One letter discussed budget matters and projections concerning CSD finances and was apparently prepared and circulated before the auditor’s report had been finished and presented to the community. Another one speculated in great detail on the costs of the proposed Ripley Plan recently presented at the July 7th Community Workshop, again using numbers that were, I guess, also made up –“ for argument’s sake.” (Mr. Ripley refused to present costs at HIS workshop, even for argument’s sake, preferring instead to wait for the final project report date of July 28. The person calling himself “Richard LeGros,” apparently felt no such caution. Well, where angels fear to tread, and so forth .) Speaking of which, like discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, speculation of this sort may or may not be accurate, since the size of angels can be remarkably fluid – Well, I say 700. Nuh-huh, according to my calculations, 695 will fit providing they take off their sandals! -- But the Open Letters sure look “authentic” and certainly must have taken quite some time to compose.

In the comment section of this blog, someone also calling himself “Richard LeGros” has logged on to make statements and offer comments with other Commentors. (We have quite a dedicated band of Sewerites engaging in a computer version of the old country store’s pot bellied stove, around which various town “characters” can gather to jaw and whittle and yak and natter. As with all things posted on the comment section of this blogsite, the authenticity of each poster is entirely open to question. Total Caveats are in order. But all are welcome if they mind their manners. i.e. no spitting tobacco juice on the floor.)

But some of what the person calling himself “Richard LeGros” has to say, especially on the subject of just WHY he voted to start work on TriW weeks before the recall and Measure B election, may have gotten the attention of CSD Board President, Lisa Schicker. Clearly, she has received and read the various “open letters,” and has sent an open letter of her own.

Herewith a copy. I leave it to the reader to compare her observations with those made by the person calling himself “Richard LeGros” in the various comment sections of this site’s different blog entries. It makes for interesting reading but, as I said, is only for dedicated Sewerites.

One item does stand out in Lisa’s letter. A date. December 2005 And a name: Darrin Polhemus. They go to the heart of a question that I have puzzled over, which was, Why on earth did the recalled Board members vote 3 – 2 to start pounding millions of dollars into the ground only weeks before a recall and a Measure B election. Fiscal prudence alone should have dictated waiting so as to – above all – do no or as little [fiscal] harm as possible. The person calling himself “Richard LeGros” has claimed that he had no choice but to move ahead because to do otherwise would have violated [an uncited] law. But there it is, that date . . . December 2005. Add in the $2 million shortfall mentioned as being in the pre-recall budget, the claim that the co-chair (Mr. LeGros, the real one) of the previous Board’s Finance Committee in 2005 failed to get cash flow analyses to the full board prior to the recall, and maybe the person sending the various Open Letters could now write another one ‘splaining a whole lot of things?

As I said, start yer engines and sharpen yer pencils. Vroom! Vroom!

Schicker’s letter is dated 7/10/06

Dear Mr.Legros:

Thank you for your letter. Unfortunately for all of us, and despite my repeated pleadings, no cash analysis of any type was ever done during 2005 – before the Board that you were part of decided on a 3-2 vote to accept construction bids 46-60% above engineers’ estimate and push forward with construction of the most expensive per capital project in the country-- 20 days before a recall election that was set at the latest possible date, setting into motion almost every one of the current cash problems and legal liabilities that exist for the people of Los Osos.

You and I both know that Darrin Polhemus from SWRCB-SRF said that the project could have been amended before we went to construction and that we had until December 2005 to do it – and this evidence was presented at the ACL Hearings – on video tape – why would you have ever approved such a devastating financial scheme upon your community? it appears that you have been extremely busy now, producing, emailing and publishing an array of detailed analyses and spreadsheets without attending one CSD meeting, but as co-chair of the Finance committee in 2005, when repeatedly asked for cash flow analyses, we were all denied such reports.

I would also ask you again to please review last year’s audit which indicated a $2 million shortfall during your watch and an auditor’s management letter that pointed out numerous problems with the way your board was managing the finances of the district even prior to the wastewater fiasco and cascade of poor management decisions made in a series of 3-2 votes during that year.

I would also advise that these kind of analyses and spreadsheets are not based on any reality and do damage to your fellow citizens when you send them out and print them and then the papers publish them – I have not observed your attendance at any CSD business meeting or committee meeting and suggest that if you want to get a taste of reality, please start showing up – this working behind the scenes is not helping your community, nor does it help when you post it on the blog or send it to the agencies and Blakeslee’s office – it only muddies the waters and confuses the issues further. These analyses are also undermining any attempts that Assemblyman Blakeslee and the agencies are making on behalf of the people of Los Osos.

You are cordially invited to participate in all CSD activities and I urge you to please help the community – spreading this kind of information, which is not based in truth, but in speculation in your mind, is not helping anyone.

Hope to see you soon – at a committee or board meeting. Thank you Richard.

Lisa Schicker


Shark Inlet said...

So the best Lisa could do in her reply to Richard was to say
"you did bad stuff too and you are wrong about financial issues." Pity she couldn't explain why Richard was wrong or where his carefully stated reasoning was incorrect.

Whatever the case, she presented no defense, just denial. The question remains ... is Richard right? If he is right (and we have no reason to doubt him yet ... after all, he put his cards on the table) Lisa's reply is inexcusable. If he isn't right, it would be nice for someone who supports the current CSD (Ann?) to explain his errors.

At best Lisa's reply is somewhat like Tony Snow's recent press conferences where he tries to avoid the questions by denial and mis-direction.

Technical Note: bringing up Polhemus's testimony is irrelevant to Richard's argument. Polhemus was speaking only to the SRF dates, not the TSO.

Technical Note: saying that this is "the most expensive per capital project in the country" is empty rhetoric when this new board is committed to a project which is even more expensive.

Oh, by the way, Ann ... if you don't like speculation, why did you tell us that STEP is "waaaaaay cheaper" than gravity? Once one factors in cost of replacing septics tanks currently online, at best the costs are about the same. Clearly your columns and blog entries are chock-full-of-speculation. When you argue that speculation is bad but engage in wild speculation yourself (go back and re-read your pre-recall blog entries and see what claims you made or implied that, in retrospect were pretty darn innacurate) it sort of looks ... um ... silly.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ann,

Thank you for making my day!

I, Richard LeGros, am honored to have rated a response from Ann Calhoun and her rapier pen!

My open letters are obviously scaring you, Lisa, John, Julie, Chuck and Steve, Dan, Keith, Richard M, Linde, et al, silly.

And what is yours and Lisa's response?


I see that neither you nor Lisa wishes to review the current critical community issues raised in my open letters. I see that neither you nor Lisa desires to deal with the impending financial meltdown of the LOCSD; or the costs associated with a new waste water project.

"Shame and Blame" is the game.

Very Warm Regards!
Richard LeGros

PS: Lisa's allegations are baloney.
I guess that she did not hear Mr. Crosby's clarifying answers to Julie Tacker's or Steve Senet's questions (contrary to the issues she is alleging) at the June 8 Board meeting........
OH! Lisa could not have heard because she wasn't there!

PublicWorks said...


So I guess from your and Schicker's reponse, you both feel the CSD Board is and has been getting really good advice from the staff that they selected.

Spectator said...

The only information on the projected LOCSD budget on the LOCSD website is for year 05/06 and was prepared 6/15/05 and modified 6/21/05. Check the document properties. Where is the projected budget for 06/07? How come it is not on the site? We started 06/07 on July 1, 2006. Has any projected budget been approved? Not to my knowledge! Will someone correct me by linking me to this budget? Am I missing something, left in the dust of fast moving information?

Where is the audit report and letter referred to by Lisa for 04/05. Do I have to go to the office and get it? It would be nice if she could document her allegations by putting this audit on the website so everyone could see. I heard Carter say at the meeting that due to the lateness, he included some of 05/06 information in the 04/05 audit.

I would say that an audit of 05/06 is due. This fiscal year is behind us. As far as I know, this is wanted by the court, LAFCO, and the Grand Jury. It has not been forthcoming.

Until I see the figures I will not believe a word that LISA says. She certainly has misled us in the past. As a property owner, owning three pieces of developed property in the district, I have a right to know. There is a CPA in the office that could easily prepare these reports and a pre audit. Let her put the projected budget for the year on the website so they can be copied easily, and projections checked.

A little speculation or the same order of Ann's: Is the information being withheld from the CPA? She cannot cook the books without losing her license.

What is going on? The COURT, LAFCO, GRAND JURY, PROPERTY OWNERS, and I want to know. Where is responsible government? Where is the open government that they campaigned upon? Why were not projections of financial difficulty prepared months ago and released to the property owners?

How about you Ann? Don't you want to know? Or are you afraid to know. I admit I am scared of what I will find.

Is a demonstration outside of LOCSD by a couple of hundred property owners with full press and TV required to get the figures? I hope not!

In the meantime all I have is Richard LeGros's sheets and projections and they seem reasonable. However, they are soft figures. They are what they are, and you will note that a disclaimer admitting they are not exact, accompanied them.(soft)

Let Lisa dispute them with some figures produced by a CPA. (also soft). Lisa's open letter to Richard comes very late in the game. Why is Fouche worried about keeping the lights on?

Dogpatch Refugee said...

Sounds like nerves hit to me...
Thanks Ann & Lisa.

"Unfortunately for all of us, and despite my repeated pleadings, no cash analysis of any type was ever done during 2005 – before the Board that you were part of decided on a 3-2 vote to accept construction bids 46-60% above engineers’ estimate and push forward with construction of the most expensive per capital project in the country-- 20 days before a recall election that was set at the latest possible date, setting into motion almost every one of the current cash problems and legal liabilities that exist for the people of Los Osos."

Concise. Entirely to the point.
therefore lets not respond in kind, let's ridicule instead:

"Lisa's allegations are baloney."

"At best Lisa's reply is somewhat like Tony Snow's recent press conferences where he tries to avoid the questions by denial and mis-direction."
Or maybe some annoying over posting troll trying ceaselessly to restart the Tri W projest via multiple daily blog postings.

Richard LeGros was democratically recalled and rightfully discredited for his actions as CSD Director.
"Richard LeGros" is only a moniker, and as such deserves even less credibility.

Lisa Schicker has far far more credibility and respect from this community than either Legros or "Legros" despite his "cajones cohidos"...

C'mon trolls, bring the hate on the Refugee. Turn the hose on this dawg! Thanks to ole Shirley B in Sacto for that one. Goddam don't she treat Los Osos well?

*PG-13 said...

I appreciate much of Lisa's drift about how posting unofficial and often provocative CSD budget numbers may be counter-productive. But truth is the CSD was being strangely quiet about the state of their finances until 'He-who-goes-by-Richard-LeGross' started posting financial spreadsheets on The Triv's sewer blog. While I don't think the CSD should have disclosed any details about their financials while an audit of the books and accounting systems was still underway they also should not have stonewalled their imminent bankruptcy either. Given the dearth of real numbers it was not inappropriate for 'He-who-goes-by-Richard-LeGross' to publish what he did. A vacuum will always be filled. The rest of Lisa's comments about the sad state of CSD finances prior to the new board's arrival is appropriately noted and will no doubt launch all manner of he said/she said and its-all-their-fault finger pointing. That goes with the territory I guess. Wish it was otherwise but mud is about as clear as it gets here.

BUT, for 'He-who-goes-by-Richard-LeGross' to say (July 10) > I never wrote I would be violating the "law" if I did not vote to start the waste water project; I wrote that we (Los Osos)are acting (polluting) IN VIOLATION of the LAW (Porter Cologne Act). I voted to start the waste water project to bring Los Osos into compliance with the LAW as quickly as possible at the least cost to the community. You know this as I have written my response to your "why" question several times before.

Sure glad you cleared that up cuz you had me (and I think quite a few other posters) fooled on that one. Indeed, I was so surprised at this subtle but still very important clarification I had to go back through some of the recent posts and blog threads to see how I misinterpreted this. I found quite a few posts - from you and from other bloggers of all persuasions - discussing that moving forward on TRI-W just days before the recall election was mandated by TRI-W contractual obligations. There were many. Here are just a couple.

'He-who-goes-by-Richard-LeGross' (4:39 PM 7/01)> The answer I wrote to Ann earlier makes it clear that all my decisions were to continue the governmental process. As an elected official, my oath of office was to uphold the constitutions of the United States and the State of California (and the laws thereto) for all Los Osos citizens. The only way I could uphold my oath was to apply the laws equally to all citizens; even if by doing so resulted in unpopular decisions or people vehemently disagreeing with me. Government is process performed under the laws that bid us all. I cannot pick and chose which laws to follow; I must obey all of them. Recall proponents were asking me to defy the law and governmental process, as well as break legal obligations the LOCSD had with the State, consultants and contractors. I could not and would not do so; and for that I was recalled. I have no regrets.

(8:58 July 2)> An elected official to government office is bound by oath to the law. He/she must apply law equality to all citizens. That is his/her obligation. There is no "wiggle room"; there were no "options" in following the law and meeting the requirements of regulators. (Regulators in this instance were the boards and agencies enforcing TRI-W related contractual obligations. - ed)

Reviewing your previous posts it is very clear - both explicitly by your language and implicitly by context - that you felt legally bound to proceed with TRI-W to protect the SRF loan and fulfill construction contracts. To now suggest otherwise is disingenuous. There's more than enough revisionist history being bandied about that when something so clearly revisionist and so easily corrected is proffered it must be noted. No, your primary concern was not pollution compliance. It was contract compliance. And if it is shown that contract compliance was not a necessary reason for spending so much money so quickly then bias is the only other alternative. Sorry, gotta call it as it is.

'He-who-goes-by-Richard-LeGross' (11:47 AM 7/09 ) > PS: I was never a member iof the Solution Group. I fought them for they were wrong to thhnk their project would be (ahem) "Cheaper, Faster and Better".

Is this too not a little disingenuous? And revisionist? Claiming not be on one side or another while your actions strongly suggest otherwise seems odd. I appreciate the information and perspectives you bring to the conversation. It is valuable stuff. And you have as much right to bring your perspectives to this blog as any of the rest of us. But it seems to me you are trying overly hard to claim some high ground and impartiality for things you did while in service that is not borne out by apparent facts. If you are indeed Richard LeGross, always that caveat, it seems you are trying for some gravitas of office and principle. The more suspicious part of me wonders whether this isn't some kind of CYA. That's cool.

Spectator said...

As a matter of fact, Lisa was not at the meeting. I was, and so was Ann Calhoun.

Tacker was especially upset about the comments on the audit, noting that it was an 04/05 audit and the comments did not belong there. The CPA, Carter, answered her questions stating that due to the lateness of the preparation of the audit he was required to look at figures available for 05/06 and required to comment by law. This was the first time potential finantial difficulty AND ability to continue came up. There was no opportunity for the public to question the CPA for clarity. I would have loved to do so.

This was the first time the cat came out of the bag at a board meeting.

Shark Inlet said...

Let's tackle an issue in Lisa's letter that our friend Dogpatch has raised.

The essence of Lisa's claim is that the reason they are in a financial pickle now (even though her letter denies they are, Chuck himself talked about selling TriW to keep the lights on) is because the previous board didn't to a cash analysis of any time during 2005.

Well, let me remind you Dogpatch (and Lisa as well) that there were nearly three full months of 2005 when the "new" board was in charge and they could have done such an analysis then. The could also have done an analysis of income and expenses during the first three months of 2006.

If Lisa really feels that such analyses are necessary, why did the "new" board make many decisions without any of the sort of facts she says that Richard should have provided her?

As to your claim that people respect Lisa more than Richard these days ... I would suggest you to go ask folks whether they think the "new" board has made things better or worse. I suspect you would quickly find out that your opinion is less popular than you think.

As to my support of TriW ... if one of you anti-TriW folks can show that we'll save money by putting a WWTF elsewhere, I would be quick to look over the analysis carefully and if you're right I'll change my tune. Heck, if anyone can show me that out-of-town will only be $25/month more, I would change my tune. However, because you nor Ann nor Ron (who can't do math and can't be bothered to talk with an accountant) nor anyone else has even attempted to discuss the financial issues I must stick with what I know to be a reasonable ballpark estimate of the costs.

Spectator said...

The spreadsheets by Richard LeGros were published on June 10th, after the auditors report was received on June 8th at the board meeting. The cat came out of the bag at the June 8th meeting, and there was a scramble to catch the cat. Since June 10th, up to the time of this rediculous letter from our LOCSD president we have seen absolutely NOTHING from the LOCSD to contradict these figures, and even in this rediculous letter, there are no figures to contradict Richards figures. There has been nothing from Ann Calhoun seriously taking the board to task for fiscal irresponsibility. But she can be defended in that PERHAPS she knows not how to look at spreadsheets, and PERHAPS lacks Excel to open them. (See, I am wearing striped socks).

Now LISA can spin with letters containing misinformation, but it is hard to argue with reality unless you publish the figures. But if Lisa does not want them released, how can she reply?

Shame on her, shame on the board! Shame on their supporters!

Eve of destruction? You betcha!

Spectator said...

May I correct myself? The auditor was Crosby. You know, a little like "the Jews sank the Titanic. Greenberg, Goldberg, Iceberg, all the same." I guess he has been replaced, but perhaps not. I wonder if his bill is on the stack.

Shark Inlet said...

Maybe if the CSD survives until the 28th we can see what the estimated cost of the Ripley solution is (be sure to factor in inflation and the costs of replacing some 95% of the septic tanks in town).

If, after accounting for inflation and reasonable time to the start of construction are included, it appears that the out-of-town/STEP/pond/ag-exchange costs more than TriW would (or would have), my question is this ... will Ann admit that those of us who speculated that the costs will be higher were actually doing something profitable or will speculation by anyone but "engineers" (but not MWH engineers) still be forbidden as unreasonable.

Here's my question ... why didn't the board engage in a simple cost analysis before permanently stopping TriW? (And if you think they were just invoking a "stand down" clause in the contract, why didn't they consult a lawyer for an interpretation of that clause before claiming they had the right to temporarily halt construction even though the contract clearly reserves that right for only the SWRCB?) Why didn't they do a simple cost analysis of the likely outcome of out-of-town versus TriW and report the results to us and ask us whether we want to assess ourselves additional taxes to pay for the Ripley study? Hell, if I can figure enough about excel to show that out-of-town will raise the costs considerably and if "Richard" agrees based on a very different set of assumptions and a somewhat different analysis, why should it be too difficult for our CSD of professional engineers and scientists to do something similar? There is no excuse for spending our money on such a project if it will put us into bankruptcy. The only responsible thing for an elected board to do in such a situation would be to go to the property owners and ask them whether they want to pay for such a study.

I agree with Spectator. This board seems to be UNINFORMED about the possible implication of their actions, UNAWARE of any problem or is making very UNWISE choices. They told us that the would be open and transparent. Either they are not being transparent with us or they are incompetent to hold their jobs.

That Ron and Ann is defending Lisa and the board instead of asking tough questions of them ... that the Tribune and KSBY aren't doing any digging but are simply reporting the claims of TW and the LOCSD board ... just shows us that the 5th estate (Ann and Ron) are no better than the 4th (Trib and KSBY). If the press and the alternative press are both afraid of facts and tough questions, where are we as a society?

Sewertoons said...

Where are we? At about the same place that the gutless DA and various boards have left us - holding a big, expensive, leaky bag of sewage.

I don't know how old you are Shark, but as corny and stupid as a lot of the 60's were, maybe you might have observed too, that there was a lot more political awareness and action instead of the apathy and denial we tolerate today. "Safe" now seems to be the new "right on!"

And - Lawsuits RULE!!!!

Churadogs said...

Inlet sez:"Oh, by the way, Ann ... if you don't like speculation, why did you tell us that STEP is "waaaaaay cheaper" than gravity? "

What I said, then amended (since "sewer system" and "system" becomes a kind of shorthand," and what I was actually refering to (and corrected some posts back) was the STEP COLLECTION system is waaaay cheaper than the gravity COLLECTION system. The cost of the rest of the items and the system as a whole remains to be seen. So can we put this to bed: Step COLLECTION vs gravity COLLECTION.

Spectator said:"The CPA, Carter, answered her questions stating that due to the lateness of the preparation of the audit he was required to look at figures available for 05/06 and required to comment by law. This was the first time potential finantial difficulty AND ability to continue came up. There was no opportunity for the public to question the CPA for clarity. I would have loved to do so.

This was the first time the cat came out of the bag at a board meeting."

Uh, did I fall asleep at that meeting. When the auditor finished his report, wasn't there public comment, either during general public comment or was that an action item only? And if no comments were allowed that night (can't imagine it) surely people seeing the cat peeping out of the bag that evening shouldhave shown up en mass the next meeting. And when McPherson stood up to present a preliminary report on a volunteer reoraginization idea Lisa had asked her to put together, there was a question/comment period following Where was everyone then to ask about the cat in the sack (i.e. why would you need a voluntary Let's avoid bankruptcy, if there were no bankruptcy issues looming?

One of the problems of this blog is that it seems that a lot of people spend huge amounts of their time nattering away on the screen but fail to show up to actually do or ask or raise issues that might actually get something accomplished. What's THAT about?

Inlet sez"Here's my question ... why didn't the board engage in a simple cost analysis before permanently stopping TriW?"

Uh, I think they did. It took place in the Negotiations that weren't Negotiations and the plans they looked at were vettted by Polhemus as either being slightly cheaper or similar in overall cost as TriW.

Inlet also sez:"If the press and the alternative press are both afraid of facts and tough questions, where are we as a society? "

When citizens refuse to show up at public meetings to ask questions, get first hand knowledge first hand, raise issues, vote (remember the "missing" 40% here in Sewerville) then, yes, indeed, like you, I would ask: Where are we as a society? I would also ask: Where are YOU?

Shark Inlet said...

Sure, the cost of STEP collection may be less expensive than gravity, but if the additional and very real cost of septic replacements are included, the package deal ... what we end up paying ... suggests gravity may be better. Certainly when you consider design costs, inflation and the cost that the gravity system is ready for construction NOW it sways the balance sheet to the side of gravity being so much better that only someone who hadn't bothered to look at the numbers would argue for STEP.

About that meeting Ann where you suggest there was public comment time ... maybe you should go back and see if there was an opportunity for public comment when the report was presented, as is typically done.

As to your contentions that they board did some cost analysis before stopping TriW ... the time to do so was before they "temporarily" stopped the project. We all know that the effect of the temporary stoppage was to start the ball rolling and there was no opportunity to start things back up unless the LOCSD board had re-started the project well before the "negotiations." As to your contention that Polhemus said out of town was comparable to TriW, you might want to go look at the transcript of the ACL hearing where he pointed out that the additional delay and design costs would make the out-of-town system likely much more expensive.

Face it ... the board didn't count the costs of stopping the project. They didn't even attempt to estimate the costs of an out-of-town project, let alone compare them to TriW before they made the choice to pursue the out-of-town idea. Again, had they run on a platform of "we'll move it out of town, but it will cost about 50% more than the estimated $200/month of TriW" would they have won? Hell no. However, simply cost analyses I was doing at the time (and you criticized me for) showed exactly that. Now once the Ripley numbers come in and are interpreted (by adding inflation and time to design, site and permit a plant ... oh and deal with lawsuits as well) it will be pretty obvious.

Ann, how do you know I am not at these meetings? How do you know that I'm not the quiet lady who never speaks? How do you know I'm not Joe Sparks?

On the other hand, how dare you assume that I can make it to the meetings? How do you know I'm not bedridden?

Your presumption that democracy only operates if we show up at the community center three times per month is simply silly. As to the issue of journalism and your choice of what to write ... would you rather be a muckraker or cheerleader? You used to be a muckraker. Now you seem to be a cheerleader. I miss the old Ann, the one who could be counted on to ask tough questions. Again, your choice.

Sewertoons said...

Ann, you said:
"To my knowledge, at that time, the Financial (and other) advisory Committees had been shut down so who was doing the usual advisory committee oversight?"

Yes, the committees meet now, but did Mr. Goldin et al have ANY idea what was going on? I don't think that he and his committee was privy to much of anything.

So how is now better/different than it was then if there is really no oversight now either?

Anonymous said...

I will vouch for the fact that the finance committee has really been left out of the loop. That is because BLESKY won't answer their questions or help them out. They have only been able to do so much (not much) because the board is financially in the dark and their GM is out to lunch for whatever reason. By the way, BLESKY will be gone very soon.

Sewertoons said...

anon! Thanks for the excellent news about Bleskey!