Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hey, the OTHER "More than 4,000" Los Osos Property Owners, Did You Get YOUR Refund Check from the LOCSD?

So, a few weeks back, a little source-elf emails me a seemingly boring, yet, upon further review, extremely interesting document.

It's something called a, "Debtor's Claims Register," from the Los Osos Community Services District, and it's a list of people and companies that filed a claim (and either got paid, or didn't) in the District's bankruptcy proceedings over the past few years.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "How in the world can a boring government document called a, "Debtor's Claims Register," from the Los Osos Community Services District, be considered, in any way, 'extremely interesting?'"

Well, here's how:

If you look at that document closely (it's only six pages, so it goes pretty fast), you'll notice that there are numerous (about 80) claims from individual property owners, that are in the $2,000 - $6,000-ish range, and, almost all of those claims would go on to be rejected.

For example, according to that document, former [recalled] LOCSD Director, Gordon Hensley, filed a claim for "$6,511.76," however, under the category, "Objection Status," it reads, "Objection sustained," and then under the "Final Claim Amount" category, it reads, "$0.00," which means Hensley didn't get a penny of his claim, due to some sort of "objection" by the District.

And that's exactly how it goes for almost all of those same type of individual Los Osos property owner: $2,000 - $6,000-ish range claims: "Objection sustained," "Final Claim Amount: $0.00," over and over and over again.

However, and here's the weird/interesting part, seven of those exact type of claims were NOT "Objection sustained," "Final Claim Amount: $0.00."

For example, one of those seven is, "Hans & Pam Langfeldt," and under their "Objection Status" category, it's blank -- no "Objection sustained" -- and, then, under their "Final Claim Amount" category, it reads, "$3,299.06."

Same with Lenora Gentry, "Final Claim Amount: $3,299.06."

Frank Merrill? "$4,950.93."

John & Vivian McNeil? "$6,395.48."

Richard & Paulette Staley? "$3,464.01"

Cal & Rosemary Wilvert? "$3,299.06."

Mr. & Mrs. C.D. Mussey? "$3,299.06."

And it's just those seven, out of about 80 of the exact type of claims, whose "Final Claim Amount" category has a dollar figure in it, and no "Objection sustained."

Gets better.

After reviewing the "Debtor's Claims Register," I sent the District a public record request for a copy of the processed check between the LOCSD and "Hans & Pamela Langfeldt."

What they sent me is interesting.

It's a full page of the District's checks that were made out to various people and companies in February, 2014.

And, sure enough, one of those processed checks?:

"PAY TO THE ORDER OF: Hans & Pam Langfeldt," DATE: 2/5/2014, "AMOUNT: $1,353."

Same with Frank Merrill, Lenora Gentry, etc.

So, apparently, there's another interesting twist in play here: The seven claims that were NOT "Objection sustained" (for reasons heretofore unknown) in the "Debtor's Claims Register," when it came time to cut the actual checks for those claims, the amount ended up being far less than the "Final Claim Amount" from the "Debtor's Claims Register."

For example, Frank Merrill's "Final Claim Amount" from the "Debtor's Claims Register," was "$4,950.93," and he ended up getting a check for "$2,030.00."

Now, I have no idea why that discrepancy exists, but I'm just going to chalk it up to some confusing bankruptcy-settlement type thingee. (Maybe the District will be cutting Merrill another check in the future for the balance? I don't know, but if I ever find out, I'll post it.)

But, there it is, clear as day: The Los Osos CSD, earlier this year, cut checks to just seven property owners, and NOT to the 70-something others that filed an official, and similar, claim found in the "Debtor's Claims Register."

So, why?

I recently asked Keith Swanson, from the LOCSD Finance Committee, "Why did the District issue those checks to those people?"

And, he told me, "... the checks were part of the bankruptcy. Issued to those who pre-paid their (2001) assessment."

And there's my (usual) SewerWatch bombshell.

You see, back at this link (from about a year ago):

... I exposed how "more than 4,000" property owners are STILL paying that exact assessment that those seven got (partially) refunded, and those "more than 4,000" property owners will continue to pay it until the year 2034.

Gets better.

As I also (fairly) recently exposed, at this link:

... that 2001 assessment -- that SOME Los Osos property owners got (at least partially) refunded, while the vast majority didn't -- is going towards "paying" for a now-miserably-failed, non-sewer-project, that will never exist, and because "more than 4,000" Los Osos property owners are now stuck paying, until the year 2034, for a public works embarrassment that will never exist, Los Osos has made property tax history.

That situation -- where property owners are stuck paying (for the next 20 years) for a public works disaster, that will never exist -- has never happened... anywhere. [I asked numerous sources, and the standard response is, "I've never heard of this before," and I've Googled the heck of it, and I can't find another instance. YOU try to find somewhere else where that situation exists. At least Boston's "Big Dig" fiasco eventually got built. But, the 1999 - 2005 LOCSD's mid-town-sewer-plant/"picnic area" disaster, that they wasted 7 years and some $25 million "developing," and that MOST Los Osos property owners are now stuck paying for, for the next two decades? Uh, not so much, of course.]

So, there you have it: The unbelievably fascinating situation currently in Los Osos, California: SOME property owners getting a refund on their 2001 sewer assessment, while the vast majority of Los Osos property owners are now stuck paying that exact same assessment for the next 20 years, for a public works embarrassment, that will never exist, and thus, have made property tax history in the process.

Journalistically speaking? Doesn't get much better.

And THAT's the story of how a boring document titled, "Debtor's Claims Register," is "extremely interesting."


[10/26/14: Just a quick addendum:

I meant to include in this story the following, 9/2/14, email I sent former [recalled] LOCSD Director, Gordon Hensley:

- - - - - - - -
Hello Gordon,

Howya been? Long-time, no email, eh? ; -)

Hey, real quick, I was just looking over the LOCSD's "Debtor's Claims Register," from the bankruptcy settlement, and I noticed on page 2 that you filed a claim for "$6,511.76."

I'm just curious, what was that claim for? Why were you saying that the LOCSD owed you "$6,511.76?"

By the way, throughout that 5-page document, there are numerous individual Los Osos property owners that filed claims in the $3,000 - $6,000 range, however, the vast majority of those claims, like yours, were "Objection sustained," and then "$0.00" was paid to the "Creditor."

However, seven others, like Lenora Gentry ("$3,299.06") on page 2 (highlighted) were NOT "Objection sustained," and they, apparently, got a check from the CSD.

So, now I'm wondering why your $3,000-$6,000-range claim was "Objection sustained," and you got "$0.00," while only seven others in that exact $3,000 - $6,000 range (including Lenora) got paid every penny of their claims.

So, you know, what were you claiming? Maybe it was different from what the other seven were claiming, and that's why you didn't get paid.

However, if your claim was similar to what the other seven (that DID get paid) were claiming, well, that doesn't sound too fair to you... and all of those other "Objection sustained" $3,000-$6,000-range claimers. I mean, why did Lenora (and six others) get paid, and you guys (what looks to be about 100 of you) didn't?

Do you know the answer to that question?

As always, much thanks,
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Hensley, never replied, of course.

I also sent LOCSD General Manager, Kathy Kivley, this email on 10/16/14:

- - - - - - - -
Hello Kathy,

I'm researching a story, and I just have a quick question involving the District's 2.28.14 Statement, where the LOCSD cut checks to:

Lenora Gentry, $1,353

Hans & Pam Langfeldt, $1,353

Frank Merrill, $2,030

John & Vivian McNeil, $2,622

I'm just curious, why did the District issue those checks to those people?

Was it for different reasons, or for the same reason?

- - - - -

Kivley never replied, of course.]

Friday, August 01, 2014

Bruce Gibson's "Evil Genius in the Back Room," and Why I Predict Four Awkward Years in SLO County Government

San Luis Obispo County Supervisor, Bruce Gibson, refers to his long-time "campaign consultant," Tom Fulks, as his "evil genius in the back room."

Which is why, a few months back, I sent Gibson this email:

- - - -

Hello Supervisor Gibson,

I'm researching a story, and I was looking over your past FPPC 460 forms ("Campaign Statement") for this campaign season, archived at this link: (then search "Bruce Gibson" in the "name" search)

... and I noticed how your campaign paid a "campaign consultant" named "Tom Fulks" nearly $20,000 since last July.

For example, the form at this link:

... that covers from 7/1/13 to 12/31/13, shows "$10,000" to "Tom Fulks" for "campaign consulting."

Now, I notice how Tom has a robust on-line presence, including his SLOSense PAC Facebook page, at this link:

... where he describes SLOSense as, "Providing an online, reality-based, political information platform for San Luis Obispo County. Produced by the SLOSense PAC."

He also operates his own Youtube channel, at this link:

However, on both of those sites -- that appear to ONLY discuss SLO County politics -- I can't seem to find where Tom actually discloses the fact that the "Gibson for Supervisor" campaign is paying him some $20,000 for "campaign consulting."

In fact, to the contrary, in one post, at this link:

... Tom writes:

"In this case, it is clearly implied that SLOSense and me, Tom Fulks, placed an ad on Craig's List to recruit bloggers to do political work, and that I am paid by politicians to do this. I am not paid by anyone to do SLOSense and never have been."

Other recent SLOSense Facebook posts by Tom include discrediting D.A. candidate, Dan Dow.

For example, Tom writes:

"Some local Democrats, progressives, moderates and decline-to-staters appear to be succumbing to the 'apolitical' seduction of Dan Dow for District Attorney. Seriously?

With a whiff of carpet baggery and dirty tricksterism, this fellow (Dow) has been a hard-charging partisan for a long time, and appears willing to do whatever it takes."


"... the Dan Dow thug-a-thon campaign for DA..."

Additionally, on his Youtube channel, at this link:

... Tom posts videos and commentary apparently with the aim of discrediting pretty much anyone that disagrees with his boss (you).

For example, he wrote:

"Addressing the SLO County Board of Supervisors on Feb. 19, 2013, this Los Osos resident exhibits classic brutishness, rudeness and dyspepsia. Stay classy."

... to describe a public commenter that is often critical of you.

So, here's my question:

Is that what your campaign pays Tom Fulks tens of thousands of dollars to do -- to sneak around on-line and discredit and character-assassinate anyone, or any news-gathering source, that doesn't portray you in a favorable light?

Because, I have to admit, that's exactly what it looks like -- you pay Tom BIG bucks to sneak around and destroy the reputations of people, simply because those people are critical of you, and/or don't align with you politically.

If that's NOT accurate, then please explain exactly what Tom's job is in your campaign, because, right now, all I see is your private, professional, behind-the-scenes character-assassin.

I mean, am I missing something?

As always, much thanks,
- - -

Gibson never replied, of course, but one of the people that I cc'd on that email, recently elected SLO County District Attorney, Dan Dow, did:

"Thank you Ron,
Interesting to say the least... And I am the one accused of 'being political' :-)

All the best,

And that's exactly why I predict an awkward next four years in SLO County government.

I mean, here's Gibson (who was also recently elected to another 4-year term), shelling out FAT stacks (yo) to his "evil genius in the back room," Tom Fulks, to essentially fund Fulks' SLOSense (so-called) "PAC," and then Fulks uses his "PAC" to discredit anyone that's not 100-percent committed to his boss, like, apparently, Dow.

So, look how great this is, and how fun this will be to watch play out over the next four years: Newly elected SLO County DA (and Gibson's fellow SLO County government colleague), Dan Dow, is now VERY aware (thank you very much) that, (Democrat) Supervisor Gibson, pays Fulks BIG bucks to run around on the Internet and and do things like discredit (Republican-backed) Dow (BEFORE the election), by calling Dow things like a "carpet bagger," "a hard-charging partisan," a "dirty trickster," and "thug."

Which all gets back to my original question: What, exactly, is Tom Fulks' job?

Is it simply to get Bruce Gibson elected by sneaking around and discrediting anyone and anything (including news sites like that's not 100-percent committed to his boss, Gibson, OR, is his job to use his so-called "PAC" to destroy the lives of anyone and anything that's not 100-percent committed to the SLO County Democratic Party?

Here's what I'm getting at: Gibson isn't the ONLY left-leaning local politician that pays Fulks thousands of dollars to destroy their opponents and their opponents' supporters... uh, and just about anyone that says, or posts, anything slightly critical of Fulks' employers.

In his failed re-election bid two years ago, former SLO County Supervisor, Jim Patterson, also paid Fulks thousands of dollars for "campaign consulting."

However, unlike Gibson, Patterson didn't get his money's worth. He lost that election to Debbie Arnold -- a republican.

Of course, now, take one guess whose character Fulks hammers away on through his SLOSense "PAC?" Yep -- Gibson's fellow Supervisor, Debbie Arnold. ["5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold giving Agenda 21 some love"]

Starting to notice a trend?: Local, left-leaning politicians pay Fulks BIG bucks to sneak around and destroy anyone and/or anything that's not on their side... including their own SLO County government colleagues! Awwkwaaarrrd.

On his SLOSense "PAC" Facebook page, Fulks writes, "SLOSense will register as a political action committee in due course, in compliance with all applicable rules and regulations."

So, with that quote in mind, and after Googling around to discover that SLOSense has NOT registered "as a political action committee in due course," I recently sent Zackery Morazzini, General Counsel for the California Fair Political Practices Commission, this email:

- - -
Hello Zackery,

I'm researching a story involving PAC registration in California, and I'm hoping I can get a "ruling" from you (or someone else in your office) on a quick question. (I also think you are going to find this very interesting.)

It involves a local (San Luis Obispo County) "PAC" -- "SLOSense PAC" -- where, on their Facebook page at this link:

... it reads:

"Political Organization
Providing an online, reality-based, political information platform for San Luis Obispo County. Produced by the SLOSense PAC "

Now, the sole person behind the SLOSense so-called "PAC," is someone named, Tom Fulks.

He writes, at this 4/4/2013 link:

"My name is Tom Fulks. This page is my idea and I am responsible for the (content)... I should have disclosed who is behind this effort early..."


"SLOSense will register as a political action committee in due course, in compliance with all applicable rules and regulations."


"As a political page, I (Tom Fulks) will be promoting a certain philosophy... "


"Folks who understand FPPC Form 410 know filing it is not required until an (PAC) organization has reached the $1,000 threshold."

O.K. Now, with all of that in mind, here's where this gets interesting.

According to SLO County Supervisor, Bruce Gibson's recent FPPC 460 forms ("Campaign Statement") for this campaign season, archived at this link:

... the forms show that Gibson's campaign paid "consultant," "Tom Fulks," nearly $20,000 since last July.

For example, the form at this link:

... that covers from 7/1/13 to 12/31/13, shows "$10,000" to "Tom Fulks" for "campaign consulting."

So, here's my question:

As long as local politicians continue pay "campaign consultant," Tom Fulks, tens of thousands of dollars directly to "Tom Fulks," and not directly to his SLOSense "PAC" (and, therefore, he never officially goes over that "$1,000 threshold" for PAC registration), does that mean that he never has to officially register his (what he terms) "SLOSense PAC" -- that includes "a political" Facebook page that "promotes a certain philosophy" -- and, therefore, he can just keep calling SLOSense a "PAC" without ever registering it (because the money's going straight to Tom Fulks, instead of "SLOSense PAC") and, therefore, will also never have to "comply with all applicable rules and regulations" for PACs in California?

In other words, as long as Tom continues to get paid directly by local politicians, he never has to do this:

"SLOSense will register as a political action committee in due course, in compliance with all applicable rules and regulations."

... right?


- - -

Morazzini never replied, so, about a week later, I sent him this follow-up email:

- - -

Hello Zackery,

I haven't heard back from you regarding my email from July 14, and I was just wondering if you ever received it? If you could just send me a quick note confirming that you received it, that'd be great.

And, as long as I'm here, I just want to show you, real quick, how important it is... well, for Democracy, that I get that email answered.

At one of my blog posts, at this link:

... I exposed how the "Chair" of a local political "Committee" named, "Save the Dream Coalition," Pandora Nash-Karner, collected thousands of dollars in contributions to her PAC, and then turned right around and used her own PAC, to hire and pay her own marketing business, Pandora & Co.

Now, the ONLY reason I was able to expose that great story, is because the "Save the Dream Coalition" was an officially registered "Committee," and therefore, they had to file Form 460 -- the ONLY document that allowed me to break that excellent story.

So -- and this is very, very important -- if the SLOSense "PAC" HAS discovered some sort of loophole where they essentially use the "Gibson for Supervisor" campaign to launder money for the SLOSense "PAC," and therefore SLOSense never breaks the "aggregate contributions of $1,000 or more in a calendar year" threshold required for registration, and therefore, never has to officially register as a PAC, and therefore, never has to file a Form 460, then I will have no way of reporting on 1) where their money comes from, and, more important, 2) where all of that money is going.

Which means that it is critical for my story, that I get this questioned answered:

Has the SLOSense "PAC" discovered some sort of loophole where they (read: Tom Fulks) can get paid tens of thousands of dollars by the "Gibson for Supervisor" campaign, for example, and therefore never officially break the "aggregate contributions of $1,000 or more in a calendar year" threshold required for official "Committee" registration, which means they'll never have to file the required financial disclosure forms?

Is that perfectly legal?

Please, please answer... please.

Thanks again,
- - -

Morazzini never replied... again... of course (by the way, I call the FPPC, "worse-than-nothing") but I have a hunch that the weasily thing they -- Fulks, Gibson, Patterson, etc. -- do there, IS perfectly legal.

In other words, as long as Fulks continues to launder his "PAC" money through local politicians' campaigns (which, apparently, is perfectly legal), he'll never have to disclose what he's doing with all of that cash.

Is he hiring OTHER people to sneak around on the Internet and destroy the character of people that are NOT on his clients' side? We'll never know, because the SLOSense PAC doesn't have to file disclosure forms that would (or should) contain that information, because, technically, Fulks will never crack the $1,000 in donations threshold that would require him to file those forms.

So, what a SWEET deal for Fulks and his clients: Fulks gets paid BIG bucks to destroy anyone and anything that's not favorable to his employers, and he never has to disclose that that IS his job, as he would if he was an official PAC.

Sweet deal!

And, speaking of highly unethical non-disclosure, I have another question: Does Bruce Gibson inform his numerous individual donors that a HUGE percentage (about 40-percent) of their contributions to the "Gibson for Supervisor Campaign," is being laundered straight to "PAC" owner, Tom Fulks' pocket, where he then character-assassinates anyone critical of his clients?

Are Gibson's financial supporters even aware of the fact that almost half of their money is going to some shady, "evil genius in the back room" spinster, ala: Karl Rove?

For example, one of Gibson's financial supporters in this recently-completed campaign season was SLO County Superintendent of Schools, Julian Crocker ($100). By all accounts, Crocker is a long-time, respected member of the community.

So, did Gibson inform Crocker that a huge chunk of his $100 was going to be laundered to Fulks, just so Fulks can continue to skirt PAC regulations, and continue to destroy people's reputations simply because those people don't agree, 100-percent, with Fulks' clients?

I have a hunch that the answer to that question is, "No." (I'd ask Gibson that question, but I already know he'd never reply, so it's a waste of both of our time for me to even ask.)

[For the record: In the period from 7/1/13 through 12/31/13, the "Gibson for Supervisor" campaign brought in "$27,809" in contributions, and then turned right around and cut SLOSense "PAC" founder, Tom Fulks, a check for "$10,000."

From 1/1/14/ through 3/17/14, the entire amount of donations received by Gibson was "$13,010." Fulks was paid another "$5,000" -- almost half of all donations received in the period.

From 3/18/14 through 5/17/14? Another "$4,000" to Fulks. The total amount of contributions for that period? "$15,650." Again, Fulks hauled in more than a third of all contributions to the "Gibson for Supervisor" campaign.]

Finally, one last, parting bit of fun:

Considering that Fulks (& Co.?) gets paid BIG bucks to sneak around and destroy anyone and anything (including media) that doesn't portray his clients in a favorable light, whadaya think is going to happen to me now -- now that I've posted this story?

I've got a bad feeling that Supervisor Gibson is about to get some good return on his "evil genius" investment.


Monday, January 06, 2014

Ohhhhh, Puuuulitzerrrrrr Boooaaaarrrrd. . .

Long story short: I need to publish something on my blog "at least weekly during the calendar year" for the duration of 2014, but now it's January 6, and I don't have time for a "meaty" post this week, so that's what this post is... me posting something "at least weekly," for the first week of 2014.

[1 week down. 51 to go.]

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tribune Editorial: "The Residents of Los Osos" Now "Owe" Julie Tacker and Lisa Schicker "Everlasting Gratitude"

Well, as I wind down another fascinating year here at ol' SewerWatch (after all, in 2013 , I did expose THE best story in the history of SLO County, so, that was kinda cool, and that story will continue to be mind-blowingly amazing as I follow it through 2014) I did want to sneak in this last, fun blog post, that acts as a great journalism lesson, to boot.

It's what happens when a newspaper pops out a stupid editorial, and then gets confronted with that editorial several years later, as the editorial is shown to be stupid.

A beautiful journalism lesson.

First, a little context:

In 2005, three members of the Los Osos CSD board were facing a recall. The recall was over one issue: The three board members (the board majority) were dead-set on building a sewer plant/"picnic area" smack-dab in the middle of Los Osos.

IF the recall was successful, those three board members would be replaced with three new board members, where they would join "recall proponents" Julie Tacker and Lisa Schicker, to create a 5-0 board that was dead-set on NOT building a sewer plant in the middle of Los Osos.

The recall was successful, the three board members were recalled, and looooooong story short, the mid-town sewer plant/"picnic area" disaster that the three recalled board members were dead-set on building, never even came close to working, of course.

Enter the Tribune in my little story here: SLO County's only daily newspaper, in the run-up to the September 27, 2005, Los Osos CSD recall election, popped out three editorials (three!), all in support of denying the recall, and actually moving forward with building some crazy, sewer plant/"picnic area," smack dab in the middle of Los Osos.

Five years later, in 2010, careful SLO County official analysis would ultimately show the Los Osos CSD's so-called Tri-W "project" -- that the LOCSD wasted some $25 million, and seven years trying to build -- to be the exact nonsensical disaster that I first exposed it to be in my 2004 New Times cover story, Three Blocks Upwind of Downtown, and today, SLO County officials are currently constructing a sewer system for Los Osos where the sewer plant will be built out of town, downwind.

And the 1999 - 2005 Los Osos CSD's crazy "picnic area"/mid-town-sewer-plant-disaster never even came close to working (yet, more than 4,000 Los Osos property owners are still paying for that now-failed disaster, and will continue to pay for it until the year 2034, for a public works non-project that will never exist, thus making property tax history... which is the "best story in the history of SLO County" that I exposed earlier this year. Fascinating stuff, no matter where you live.)

So, as 2013 comes to a close, look at the Trib's situation regarding Los Osos. Journalistically speaking, it's very interesting.

Their editorial board, back in 2005, heavily supported building a disastrous sewer plant in the middle of Los Osos, yet, five years later, that non-project is shown to be the exact disaster I first exposed it to be, in 2004.

So -- and this is flat-out great, and why I'm typing this post today, 12/31/13 -- just a few weeks back, I was going through a box of clippings, and I stumbled onto a 9/29/05 editorial from the Trib, that I've made available for public download at this link.

Keep in mind, this editorial (their fourth on the subject) is now two days after the successful recall election, and after the Trib campaigned HARD, with three editorials (one on the day of the recall election, itself... as voters were on their way to the polls) for the failure of the recall effort.

Soooooo... being the little smart-ass-reporter/journalism-ethics-fan that I am, I recently sent Tribune editor, Sandra Duerr, who sat on the Trib's editorial board in 2005, this email:
- - -
    Hello Sandra,
    I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season.

    Hey, real quick... I'm researching a story, and I recently came across a 9/(29)/05 editorial from the Tribune (attached as a jpg) titled, "Now, Los Osos, pull together," and, in it (4th paragraph), it reads:

    "... if (Los Osos CSD) recall proponents make good on their campaign promises by building a sewer system out of town that will cost households less than $205 per month, the residents of Los Osos will owe them everlasting gratitude."

    That was in 2005, immediately following the successful LOCSD recall election.

    Well, fast-forward to today -- December 2013 -- and the County of SLO WAS able to "make good" on the "campaign promises" of the "recall proponents," by designing, and now constructing, a sewer system with a treatment facility "out of town," and according to sources, the monthly household cost for the County's current project is around "$160/ per month."

    Here's my question:

    Where is the Tribune's follow-up editorial, that states that "the residents of Los Osos" NOW "owe recall proponents everlasting gratitude?"

    I've searched around Google a bit, but I can't seem to find that editorial. I'm sure it's just me, because, certainly, considering your 9/(29)/05 editorial, your staff must have written that follow-up, but, I just can't find it, and, for that, I apologize.

    So, if you could just point me to that editorial, I would very much appreciate it.

    Oh, and, good news!

    Also in your 9/(29)/05 editorial, your staff writes, "... (we) fervently hope the agenda they've (the 'recall proponents') set out can be achieved."

    Your fervent hopes came true! That agenda WAS achieved.

    See? Good news : -)

    As always, much thanks,
- - -
She never replied, of course.

[Have a GREAT 2014! I know it's going to be a lot of fun here in ol' SewerWatch]


Friday, November 01, 2013

Los Osos Makes Property Tax History: "More than 4,000" LO Property Owners Set to be Fleeced (Again), Starting Today, November 1, 2013

MEMO to "more than 4,000" property owners in Los Osos: Here's Supervisor Bruce Gibson's email address:

After reading this, you're going to need it.

Los Osos, apparently, has made some sort of property tax history.

There have been many interesting developments in the five months since I posted my (and I'm just going to call it what it is) bombshell story -- Junk Bonds: The Twice-a-Year Fleecing of Los Osos. . . Until the Year 2034 -- where I expose how "more than 4,000" property owners in Los Osos are currently (present-tense) being fleeced, by their local government(s), twice a year (every time they cut a check for their property taxes), and will continue to be fleeced twice a year until the year 2034, as those property owners are forced, BY their local government(s), to finance, for the next two decades, a failed public works disaster, that was based on nothing but fraud.

One of those interesting developments IS that five months has now passed since I published my story, and Supervisor Bruce Gibson, whose district includes Los Osos, NOW knows about the fleecing.

Remember that whole "TWICE a year fleecing" thing?

Well, back on May 1, when I first posted that story, the April deadline for paying the second installment of the 2012/13 fiscal year property taxes had just passed, however, that was five months ago.

Fast-forward to today, November 1, and now the FIRST installment of the FY 2013/14 tax bill begins to be due, and, now, Gibson knows. Gibson now is fully aware that over 4,000 property owners in his District are being fleeced twice a year, and he just doesn't care.

How do I know that he knows?


Way back on May 13, I sent him this email:

  • Hello Supervisor Gibson,

    I'm researching a story, and I'm hoping you could answer a quick question, please.

    I don't know if you got a chance to read my latest post, but what I show in that piece is how the [1999 -2005] Los Osos CSD's now-failed Tri-W sewer "project" was not only based on fraud, starting in "Summer 2000," but I also show how the residents of the Prohibition Zone are STILL paying for that fraud on their property taxes, and will continue to fund that fraud for another 20 years, until the year 2034... for a non-project, that will never exist.

    Now, I recently asked County Auditor-Controller, Jim Erb, if it was possible for his office to somehow cancel that line -- "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT $225.52" -- on a PZ property owner's tax bill, now that I've exposed how it was based on nothing but fraud, and he replied, "I do not know of a way to cancel the bonds other than to pay them off."

    So, now I'm wondering if there's anything you can do, in your position as 2nd District Supervisor, to help the "more than 4,000" PZ property owners in Los Osos that are being fleeced twice a year -- every time they write a check for their property taxes?


    Thank you in advance for your prompt response.
    - - -

  • Of course, he never replied, because, you know, that's the way he rolls, however, even though I already knew he would never lift a finger to help those property owners (because of the massive conflicts he encounters if he tries), I still had to send him that email, because, now, I get to report that I DID send him that email on, 5/13/13, five months ago), and he just ignored it.

    [Note: See how that works? It's kind of a fun (and, yes, admittedly, annoying) reporting device that I'm just going to take credit for inventing. It goes a little like this: I can't report that Bruce Gibson NOW knows that over 4,000 of his constituents are being fleeced twice a year by their local government(s), for the next 20 years, and that Gibson just doesn't care, UNLESS I send him that email, directing him to my story that shows (using nothing but primary sources, as usual) exactly how those innocent people -- over 4,000 of HIS constituents -- are being fleeced twice a year. See? Cool, huh?]

    However, today, unlike last April's tax bill, where I had yet to expose the twice-a-year fleecing of over 4,000 Los Osos property owners, Supervisor Gibson NOW knows, and -- and here's the kicker, and what makes this particular chapter of the overall story story SO good -- the next tax bill starts being due today, November 1, and Gibson NOW knows that over 4,000 of his constituents are about to be fleeced... again, and he's doing absolutely nothing to prevent it.

    [It's important to note Gibson's massive conflict here, and why it makes perfect sense on why he refuses to help those innocent property owners in Los Osos. In my 5/1/13 story, I point to a very specific case of fraud by the "Summer 2000" LOCSD Board of Directors, that led directly to the Tri-W assessment fraud.

    It's a newsletter that hypes the CSD's first attempt at a sewer project as "on schedule." As I show in my piece, at the time of that newsletter, the project that the District is hyping as "on schedule" had already failed, and the person that produced the newsletter, then-LOCSD vice-president, Pandora Nash-Karner, was aware that her project, that she used to create the LOCSD in the first place, in 1998, HAD already failed at the time she created her official LOCSD "news"letter.

    In my piece, I go so far as to ask an attorney if that is fraud. He told me, "Yes. That is fraud."

    Pandora Nash-Karner is the current SLO County Parks Commissioner for the 2nd District... wait for it... appointed by Supervisor Gibson.

    In other words, IF Gibson were to lift a finger to help the more than 4,000 property owner in "The PZ," that are being fleeced twice a year for the next 20 years, he would be acknowledging the obvious fraud that his own Parks Commissioner committed back in "Summer 2000" -- fraud that led to an unimaginably horrific (on a human toll), mind-boggingly wasteful (on a public funds toll), painfully destructive (on an environmental toll), 13-year-and-counting absolute catastrophe.

    So, yeah, it makes PERFECT sense on why Supervisor Gibson would NOT want to help over 4,000 Los Osos property owners from being fleeced every time they write a check for their property taxes... for the next 20 years.]

    So, on 9/10/13, four months after my first email, I sent Gibson this email:

  • Hello Supervisor Gibson,

    Sorry to bother you again, but I never received a reply to my email [above] (sent on 5/13/13), and now it's getting down to crunch time, because, starting on Nov. 1, when the next round of property taxes becomes due, "more than 4,000" Los Osos property owners are about to be fleeced AGAIN, when they are forced to pay the "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT" assessment fraud... again.

    Apparently, Los Osos has made tax assessment history. I have now spoken with three county officials, and searched the heck out of Google, and no one seems to have ever heard of this happening before: Where property owners pass an assessment for a public works project, however, years later, it turns out that the so-called "project" was based on nothing but fraud, and, therefore, it was never built (because it was based on nothing but fraud), yet, the property owners are still paying for it... for another 20 years.

    And because of that unprecedented-ness, no one seems to know what to do in this situation.

    Today, I spoke with Jim Hamilton at the County Auditor's office, and he told me that now it is too late to remove the "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT" line from the "more than 4,000" Los Osos PZ property tax bills that are set to be mailed out next month.

    [Note: Quick clarification on that -- It's not that the Auditor's office had the authority to remove that line anyway -- that excellent question, actually, is still up in the air -- but, IF they could have found a way to remove the line from the 2013/14 tax bill, it was too late to do it by the time I spoke with Hamilton. That's the take-away there. Now, back to my email...]

    So, here's what I recommend:

      [O.K., one more editor's note, and it's a long one.

      Before I get to my "recommendation," it's important to keep in mind, at this point in the story, that there are TWO different tax assessments in play here, as I show in the graphic at the top of this story:

      This line:

      "SLO AD-LO SWR (USDA) $712.58"

      ... from the County of SLO, stemming from an assessment vote Los Osos property owners passed back in 2007, and actually IS going to pay for a REAL project -- the sewer system currently under construction in Los Osos, that County officials developed over the past six years.

      Then there's THIS line on a PZ property owner's bill:

      "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT $225.38"

      ... that "$225.38," is going towards absolutely nothing.

      4,203 ("to be exact") properties in Los Osos pay that assessment twice a year, every year, and have paid that assessment for the past 10 years -- roughly $1.1 million/year combined, or some $11 million to date -- and the only thing that money does is pay back the investors that purchased the bonds back in 2003 -- a nearly $20 million "investment," that was completely wasted by the Los Osos CSD on their Tri-W "project" assessment fraud.

      However, these days -- and here's another great kicker -- those investors are still cashing in on those "30-year bonds," and will continue to cash in on those fraud-based bonds for the next two decades, all while more than 4,000 property owners in Los Osos are stuck financing those investors' terrible and extremely risky (obviously) investment.

      I mean, fer god's sake, look at what those investors bought into, back in 2003: A community sewer system that called for an industrial strength sewer plant, smack-dab in the middle of Los Osos -- three blocks upwind of downtown -- and, of course, because the sewer plant was in the middle of town, millions upon millions of additional tax dollars had to be spent to accommodate a "mid-town" sewer plant, and, as I originally exposed in one of my New Times cover stories, back in 2004, the ONLY reason the LOCSD was building their sewer plant in the middle of town in the first place, was (and, although it sounds like I'm making this up, I'm not) so the town folk could more easily access the "picnic area" that LOCSD officials designed into their downtown sewer plant, when there isn't a shred of documentable evidence, anywhere, that shows that the people of Los Osos even wanted to "picnic" in their sewer plant to begin with... of course. Astonishing.

      And the investors that are STILL cashing in on those bonds, invested in THAT highly risky mess.

      However, and here's the rub, sources that I've contacted for this story, regarding the "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT" assessment, keep telling me a version of this take: That the assessment is legit these days -- even though it was originally for a "project" that will now never exist -- because SLO County officials were able to salvage much of the "work" from the LOCSD's disaster, and that saved millions in the County's design process.

      But here's the HUGE problem with that take: Obviously, the SLO County Public Works Department didn't use ALL of the District's deeply, deeply flawed design, yet, the Public Works Dept. has never revealed how much, if any, they were able to salvage from the LOCSD's disaster, despite the fact that I have asked that question to SLO County Public Works officials numerous times, without a single response... of course.

      So, with all that in mind, NOW back to my "recommendation" to Gibson...]

    The County needs to conduct some sort of audit (or whatever) that shows exactly which parts of the [1999 - 2005] LOCSD's $25 million worth of their sewer "project" design that the County was able to salvage for its project -- collection system plans, environmental documents, etc. -- and what the County didn't use, like the LOCSD's "infeasible" mid-town sewer plant/"picnic area" -- a VERY expensive-to-design (and begin construction on) treatment facility, that turned out to be based on nothing but fraud (as my reporting has repeatedly shown over the past decade), and, therefore, will never exist.

    In other words, how much of the $25 million that the (1999) - 2005 LOCSD spent (read: wasted) on the Tri-W "sewer-park" fraud was the county able to salvage for its project?

    $1 million? $10 million? Zero?

    Once that audit is complete, it will show how much of the "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT" assessment money actually went to a real sewer project, and how much went to the LOCSD's fraud.

    Only then will we know if the PZ property owners, that have been paying that fraud-based assessment since 2003/04, are TODAY actually funding real sewer project related stuff, or they are now only funding the fraud, and will continue to fund that fraud until the year 2034.

    This is also very important: If that audit is not complete by November 1, and considering that it is now too late to remove the "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT" line from the next property tax bill, I also recommend that the Board of Supervisors direct the tax collector's office to go ahead and collect the "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT" assessment (starting on Nov. 1), however, instead of using that money to pay off the bond holders (whose names are heretofore unknown, despite my numerous attempts to acquire that information), the County establish some sort of special account, where the "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT" funds are held until the audit determines whether or not more than 4,000 Los Osos property owners are actually paying for REAL sewer project related design information with the "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT" assessment, or whether they are now simply being fleeced twice a year, by funding the fraud, and, if it's the latter, then that entire assessment now needs to disappear completely, ASAP, and the funds held in that special account returned to the property owners.

    So, again, is that something you can help with?

    The clock is ticking: Only 51 days until November 1, when "more than 4,000" Los Osos property owners are set to be fleeced... again.

    Thank you for your time,
    - - -

  • And now it's November 1, and still no reply from Gibson, of course, but now look what I get to do:

    Uh, over 4,000 Los Osos property owners? Here's Bruce Gibson's email address:

    All you have to do is click on that link (I even have it all set-up where the subject line, Gibson's email address, and even a cc to SewerWatch are automatically inserted), and then simply send him something like (or just copy-and-paste this):

    - - -
    Dear Supervisor Gibson,

    As a property owner in the Prohibition Zone, I am strongly requesting that you instruct the SLO County Public Works Department to conduct an audit that shows exactly what parts of the LOCSD's $25 million worth of their now-failed sewer "project" design, that the County was able to salvage for its project -- collection system plans, environmental documents, etc. -- and what parts the County didn't use, like the LOCSD's "infeasible" mid-town sewer plant/"picnic area" -- a VERY expensive-to-design (and begin construction on) treatment facility, that turned out to be based on nothing but fraud, and, therefore, of course, will never exist.

    If it's not asking too much, I would prefer knowing whether my LOCSD WASTE TREATMT assessment money is actually going to fund REAL sewer related stuff, or if it's now simply funding the LOCSD's disastrous Tri-W assessment fraud, and will continue to fund nothing but that horrific fraud... until the year 2034!?

    Thank you,
    [Insert your name here]
    - - -

    Obviously, Gibson will never respond to me, but, considering that he's recently announced his bid for re-election, he just might -- despite his massive conflict -- listen to over 4,000 property owners in Los Osos, the largest voting bloc in District 2.


    [O.K. Final Note: I ALSO cc'd the two emails above to reporters at The Tribune, New Times, and CalCoastNews, and also supplied them with the link to my 5/13/13 story that first exposed the fleecing, which means that THEY all know now, too, yet, to date, they ALL refuse to write a word on how over 4,000 property owners in Los Osos are currently being fleeced twice a year, by their own local government(s)... for the next 20 years, as those property owners are forced to fund a fraud-based, public works non-"project," that will never exist.

    And, because the worse-than-nothing local (air quotes) "media" is SOOOOOO worse than nothing, I recently did something very out of character for shy, little ol' me. Solely in an effort to push this spectacular story forward (because, it's painfully obvious that the local "media" will never help in that regard), I signed up on Twitter!: @SewerWatch_Blog. So now, y'all can "follow" me, as I (at least) continue to follow this amazing story. Be sure to tell your friends, especially if they own property in "The PZ." : -) ]