Yep,It’s a Shell Game, But This Time, It’s The Tribune’s Shell Game.
On October 27, 06, the Tribune ran an Editorial, titled “A Shell Game in Los Osos.” Actually, it was a partisan campaign ad disguised as an editorial. One of the more interesting points made was this: “The district’s board of directors has consistently pointed their fingers at the previous board – which was recalled in September 2005 – for creating the financial mess in which the community now finds itself. We don’t buy it. If the current board has found any evidence of mismanagement by the recalled board, it should come forward with it. It’s had more than a year to prove those accusations.”
Uh, gosh. Didn’t the Tribune previously print a story about how the District Attorney had investigated charges by the CSD concerning improperly/illegally signed contracts by the former general manager (a contract with WMH signed by the GM BEFORE he had even been hired ???) and the DA . . . declined to prosecute?
The DA didn’t declare that everything was fine, that it’s perfectly legal for people to sign contracts even before they’ve been hired to a job that would allow them to sign contracts . . . once they’ve been hired. Nope, the DA didn’t clear the matter, he simply DECLINED TO PROSECUTE, which is what DAs do all the time with cases they don’t think they can win or cases that just aren’t worth their time to persue. In short, they give a walk to a lot of “law-breakers.” Which, of course, the Tribune knew perfectly well when they wrote this editorial.
The Oct 27 editorial was followed by a letter to the editor by James Tkach noting that the editorial called “. . . for a new board by referring to Judge Piquet’s audit cited by the county, which alleges mismanagement by the CSD, yet this audit is for the period ending in June 2005, as was reported in the Tribune. This was prior to the recall election, yet you blame the current board. . . .”
Was reported in the Tribune? Yep, it was. So, does the editorial Board of the Trib not read their own paper before writing editorials? Guess so.
As for the audits now underway, the results aren’t in yet. Will they look at both pre-recall and post recall expenditures? Let’s hope so. Can anyone know, in advance, what their conclusions will be vis a vis any “irregularities?” No. But that hasn’t stopped the Tribune’s editorial board from jumping to conclusions that aren’t even supported by their own limited newspaper reporting.
This morning, the Tribune ran a “Viewpoint” from CSD President Lisa Schicker, responding to the Trib’s previous Election Endorsement Disguised As An Editorial; Schicker made a few key points that bear careful consideration:
“The official 2005 audit revealed the recalled board drained the wastewater fund down to $200,000 in July 2005. With the outcome of the recall election uncertain, they could’ve set the election one month earlier and delayed construction a mere 20 working days – without any loss of loan or penalty from the state; they didn’t.
“They could have sold the remaining $2 million in bonds as a safeguard; but they didn’t.
“Financial misdeeds occurred in August/September 2005, just before the election, when the manager pre-paid more than $2 million of initial state loan monies to contractors – money earmarked for project reserves/contingencies, in direct violation of State Revolving Fund loan policy and Board Resolution 2005-33. . . . “
“Our board-requested financial audits from this summer revealed the recalled board did not disclose, but took, $1.2 million out of reserves in August 2005 to pay wastewater bills and make a bond payment, against board policy, questionable reserve spending occurring before the new board ever took office.
“These irregularities are but a few reported to the district attorney, Department of Audits, grand jury and Environmental Protection Agency; they are also the basis for legal challenges to the contractors. . . . “
And so forth. To date, the request for re-examination to the EPA is underway; Outcome? Unknown. The challenge to the contractors is still underway. Ditto the grand jury and Department of Audits. In short, until these reports come in, nobody – not you, not me, certainly not the Tribune editors – know diddly.
Now, the Tribune Editorial Board knows all of this. The 2005 audit reports are available, the DA’s complaints are available, the inquires to the EPA, the lawsuit filings are all available. Does the Tribune editorial Board review any of these claims BEFORE writing its Political Ad Disguised as an Editorial?
Nope. Not a bit of it. Did the Tribune make any effort to look further into these claims and run a nice piece of “investigative journalism” on the whole tangled mess? You know, an unbiased piece that would help clarify and shine a light on what happened? Nope. Not a bit of it.
If We The People get the government we deserve, we also get the Newspapers we deserve. Which is why I keep harping on the importance that people need to stay awake at the switch. Los Osos is awash in weasle words and spin and phony “facts,” loaded to the gunnels with people jumping to conclusions -- a leap of unwarranted faith taken not only by all the private players, but – alas – from our own Newspaper of Record, which should know better.
Caveat lector, Sewerville. Caveat lector. And, yes, that includes this blog and all who log on to read and comment. Caveat, caveat.