Sanitation district attorney under fire
January 8, 2015
By KAREN VELIE
After San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District staff failed to follow board direction and agendize the settlement of a $1.1 million fine with the state, the board voted Wednesday to seek a review of district legal counsel Mike Seitz’ performance and contract.
At a Dec. 17 sanitation district meeting, the board unanimously voted to direct staff to seek a mitigated settlement with the state water board and to place a discussion of the settlement on the next agenda. However, staff failed to place the item on Wednesday’s agenda.
“I am going to insist that at the next meeting of this district on the agenda appears a status of the mediated settlement,” Hill said. “I also want to review the contract with our attorney. I am very, very displeased that this item is not on the agenda tonight.”
Seitz, who formerly worked as an attorney for the Wallace Group, has supported continuing the legal battle against the state’s fine. If the fine is paid, the district could then seek restitution from John Wallace and his engineering firm The Wallace Group.
In 2010, 384,000 gallons of raw sewage flowed in Oceano homes and the ocean, and the state later determined the spill was the result of mismanagement and fined the district $1.1 million. At the suggestion of plant administrator Wallace, the district board then agreed to pay about $750,000 to Wallace’s engineering firm and a team of lawyers to battle the fine and allegations of mismanagement.
On Oct. 24 of this year, the state water board rejected the sanitation district’s petition for an appeal of the fine. In turn, the district board voted to file a lawsuit against the state while multiple members of the public requested an investigation into Wallace’s management of the district.
But, following the November election, the makeup of the board changed with Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill and Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals joining Oceano Community Services District President Matt Guerrero. The board then voted in closed session to pursue a settlement of the state fine.
On Wednesday, Hill became chairman and Shoals was selected to serve as the vice chair. The next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 21.