Stop the Presses! The Los Osos CSD is found NOT GUILTY of . . . uh . . . ummm … well, something or other.
Yes, Sewerville was indeed shocked to pick up a copy of the July 12th Bay News to read the stunning front page story that involved former CSD director (recalled) “Gordon Hensley, now of Los Osos Taxpayer’s Watch, a citizen group that opposes the actions of the current board and seeks to have it dissolved." Seems Gordon had accused the new Board of “conducting board business via the Internet on computers owned by the State of California. . . . Rumor was that the four directors who work for Caltrans had been caught in what amounts to a ‘conflict of interest’ under state employee rules . . . “ i.e. doing the CSD’s business during their Caltrans work hours.
After plowing through about 400 emails, the Bay News learned that Caltrans “indicated that no complaints were filed, no investigations were conducted and therefore no reports were available to review. Caltrans also said it had not turned the matter over to headquarters or the Attorney General’s Office, which seems to indicate that the agency discovered nothing to suggest a Brown Act violation.”
But, there were some emails that did indicate a few cases where either the Directors sent out brief replies to whoever had contacted them at work, as well one case where they had emailed each other, and so the Caltrans spokesman told the Bay News that “We’ve made sure that corrective actions were taken to assure that employees aren’t conducting non-state business on state time, or non-Caltrans business on state time,” to which the CSD directors agreed, while noting that most of their emailing consisted of brief replies or replies to give their personal email address and/or forwarding any emails that came into them from their constituents to their personal email accounts.
So, much to the disappointment of Gordon Hensley and Taxpayers Watch, there will be no public hanging after all. But Gordon should certainly pursue this matter, perhaps by filing another lawsuit. I think there’s a few dollars left in the CSD’s bank account, so another lawsuit would certainly take care of that. And since Gordon’s neighbors and fellow citizens will be paying all the legal fees his lawsuits can generate, there’s no need to spare any expense.
On the other hand, the notion that "rumors" may have prompted Hensley's public acts request does contain a certain amount of comic irony. For years, questions have been raised about Gordon’s many tax-paid trips to Sacramento while he was in office and rumors floated around that speculated about the possibility that while he was there schmoozing with water officials on CSD business, was he also, perhaps, taking a few minutes here and there (while still on the tax-nickle-clock) to promote his own consulting business? Perhaps the Bay News should see about a public records request to see who he was emailing ( phone records would be nice or interviewing witnesses to "official-business "cocktail party chatter and such like, lots of time to mix public and private business) and/or what he was doing while in Sacramento.
All of which puts one in mind of the old folk saying, “Only one who has hidden under a bed himself, thinks to look there first.”
Meanwhile, back at the ranch . . .
At the July 13th CSD meeting, public input and comments on amending the Blakeslee Proposal went forward, with a cautionary legal analysis offered by the CSD’s attorney, Julie Biggs (copies available at the CSD office). The various concerns and proposed amendment additions and modifications will be taken by the sub-committee (Schicker and Fouche) to their meeting with Blakeslee and representatives of the County and from there any additional changes to the bill will have to make the rounds of all parties to see if the proposed changes improve the bill or are ignored or will be a deal breaker or deal enhancer.
One of the most serious concerns the community should have about this bill is the language that now relieves the County of any liability issues regarding the wastewater project they will be assuming, language that right now is both vague and unprecedented and, if not modified, could result in a public entity building a huge public works project but having no liability for that project? It’s a situation that could result in a variety of bad outcomes for which the district and the citizens would have no legal recourse.
So, it remains to be seen if both the County and perhaps lawmakers in Sacramento will see that such a loophole could have unintended consequences for everyone and so amend or modify it since the intention of the provision is clear, but the language isn’t. And law is all about language and the devil is always in the details.
And so the process moves forward, Plod, Plod.