Sanitation district lawsuit venue in dispute

March 4, 2015
Michael Seitz

Michael Seitz

By KAREN VELIE

Amid a request by the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District Board to negotiate a settlement which would end an ongoing lawsuit, the state has filed for a change of venue for the legal battle.

The California Attorney General’s office will ask a San Luis Obispo County Superior Court judge Thursday to change the venue to Sacramento. According to the motion, “the potential for undue local influence is real,” the motion says.

If the state is successful, rate payers in Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and the Oceano Community Services District could see an increase in rates, the motion says.

In 2010, failures at the sanitation district resulted in 384,000 to 3 million gallons of raw sewage flowing into Oceano homes and the ocean. The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board then determined the spill was the result of mismanagement.

On April 20, 2012, the state proposed a settlement that included a $400,000 fine and the requirement for the district to spend $375,000 on specific plant upgrades.

On May 16, 2012, the three sanitation district board members, Oceano Community Services District President Matt Guerrero, Grover Beach Councilman Bill Nicolls and Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferarra, rejected the state’s settlement offer in closed session.

On June 6, 2012, the sanitation district board discussed an anticipated timeline and a proposed strategy developed by then district administrator John Wallace, district legal counsel Mike Seitz, and outside legal counsel Melissa Thorme that included multiple appeals over the state’s fine. In their timeline, Wallace, Thorme and Seitz do not consider winning their battle against the state.

The district then paid about $750,000 to Wallace’s engineering firm, the Wallace Group, and a team of lawyers to argue against the allegations of mismanagement and the proposed fine.

In Nov. 2014, the district board voted to file a lawsuit against the state over the fine.

Then in December, the district board led by its new president, Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill, directed staff to work to settle the fine. However, staff failed for months to follow board direction.

Then on Feb. 18, Seitz announced that the district had sent a settlement offer to the state.

Nevertheless, the district has not dropped its suit against the state.


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31 Comments

  1. agag1 says:

    ****SPECIAL MEETING****

    6:00PM Monday, March 9
    AG City Council Chambers

    Public comment will be taken only on this item:
    Current litigation

    CLOSED SESSION

    (5) 11 Total Votes - 8 up - 3 down
    • justbeware says:

      Thumbs down for notice of a meeting?

      (3) 5 Total Votes - 4 up - 1 down
    • Julie says:

      Note to SSLOCSD: Get out of the litigation business! You’re losing in court and you’re losing support!

      (6) 12 Total Votes - 9 up - 3 down
  2. ODX says:

    A little BMWing (bitch moan and whining) is not a bad thing but at some point it should lead to some positive action. It seems to me the solution should not focus on what tree we should be hanging the bums but how the sinking ship can be saved.

    Maybe the right type of settlement could be an opportunity. While it is unlikely the regional board is interested in doing the right thing by the rate payers maybe a settlement proposal could be put forward that actually would help the communities the district is supposed to serve. If problems could be fixed and an independent oversight organization like the regional board could verify the corrections maybe paying for some fixes would not turn out to be a bad thing. If we can actually get something like updated facilities increased fees are not the worst outcome.

    I am open to giving the remaining bums another chance but I am still look for a good tree.

    (1) 7 Total Votes - 4 up - 3 down
  3. retiredpoliceofficer says:

    Why didn’t Jim Hill keep a closer eye on the staff so there was no delay. I support Jim for his
    mayoral bid. That doesn’t mean he can do no wrong. What about it Jimbo?

    (-8) 18 Total Votes - 5 up - 13 down
    • kayaknut says:

      Let’s see Mayor Hill has been in office less than 4 months, Mayor Shoals was involved originally, Matt Guerrero is a lost cause, and prior Ferrara was in there for what close to two decades and you won’t give Mayor Hill a chance, cut his some slack and give him some time?

      One might take it that you were fine with the way Ferrara ran things.

      (20) 28 Total Votes - 24 up - 4 down
      • doglover says:

        Until those books are wide open and WALLACE and FERRARA are exposed, the Sanitation District will be a disappointment to citizens who believe in OPEN GOVERNMENT.

        If SHOALS and GUERRERO have aspirations beyond their small hamlets, they too should seek the TRUTH.

        Jim HILL cannot do it all, How about some public records requests ( ie WALLLACE’s insurance policy, communications on the STATE fine, e mails from FERRARA on any of it!)

        (14) 18 Total Votes - 16 up - 2 down
    • agag1 says:

      If by staff, you are referring to attorney Seitz, your frustration is focused on the wrong guy.
      Twice now, Hill has attempted to get rid of Setiz, and neither time has gotten the second vote to do so. Even AFTER Seitz ignored the board’s directive to enter into negotiations, Stonewall Shoals, and his sidekick Guerrero, apparently voted against Hill, and Seitz remains.
      Seitz has been stalling at every opportunity. Shoals and Guerrero refuse to hold his feet to the fire, they’re trying to protect Ferrara who fully expected to retain his seat on the board.
      Shoals feigns frustration, yet supports Seitz behind closed doors when he’s out of the public eye and the vote really matters. No way is Guerrero going to assist in any attempt to hold Wallace accountable, he’s got that judgeship to think about!
      If you’re looking for someone to blame for how things are going, call Ferrara’s buddies, Shoals and Guerrero.
      Hill is one vote–who’s going to be the second???

      (21) 27 Total Votes - 24 up - 3 down
    • justbeware says:

      If you’d like to help make a difference, come to the next sanitation district meeting and let the board know how you feel.
      The responsibility lies with a three member board, not just Jim Hill.

      (12) 14 Total Votes - 13 up - 1 down
  4. Big Tony says:

    Hey Everybody,
    I’m gonna get right down to the point tonight, but before we begin I’m gonna have to insist that any wingnut/fringer/crazy cat ladies abstain from using the “thumbs down” option. I will allow you to raise your hands and slowly waive them from side to side if you disagree with anything, but that’s it. Okay? (tapping pencil……) OKAY? And if that trouble maker LeAnn or that Otis character show up all bets are off.

    Anyway, I just wanted to pop in say “Hi”. I told you I’d be back, just a like a case of bad herpes, I’ll never go away.

    Another thing, the value of the work performed by my good friend and Rotarian
    Brother John Wallace was exemplary, and if it weren’t for the wingnuts we’d still be getting the same great shafting that we got from him for many, many years.

    So in conclusion, I’d just like to say to Mike Seitz…..”Keep up the good work Brother! You’ve kept em off my back so far, but unfortunately it’s time to throw you under the bus too!”

    And finally, if we’d had good legal counsel during the…..ummm….”difficult” times at the San Dist I’m sure we wouldn’t be this mess. I blame it all on the attorney and with that I’m invoking my Constitutional Fifth Amendment Rights.

    Big T

    (-1) 17 Total Votes - 8 up - 9 down
    • agag1 says:

      UGH!

      GO AWAY!

      (12) 12 Total Votes - 12 up - 0 down
    • doglover says:

      Tony,
      I had my trees trimmed last month. When I asked for a bid for the work to be completed on a Friday night, they said there would be NO such bid, as NO ONE would do the work on a FRIDAY evening. Your City of A.G. job — looks like it might have lost you the election…… and a few other issues.

      We all are waiting for the San District reveal. You too?

      (10) 14 Total Votes - 12 up - 2 down
      • agag1 says:

        I had mine trimmed a few months ago for $2300.00.

        It wasn’t hard for me to find Tony’s tree trimming saga to be absolutely nothing more than ONE MORE BIG LIE!

        Lies from city hall, lies from the former AG city council, lies from Carmel…lies, lies lies!

        The REALLY BIG LIES are going to come from the Sanitation District, just wait.

        (8) 14 Total Votes - 11 up - 3 down
        • justbeware says:

          If your mayor had no trouble lying about a tree, the police, and a sleepy city manager, there will be lots to learn from an airing out of the sanitation dist.

          Follow the $$$. After all the years he ‘served’ AG, the story will undoubtedly be interesting.

          (9) 15 Total Votes - 12 up - 3 down
          • doglover says:

            You nailed it!

            If you have to blame others, you prove your are not trustworthy. Take ownership of your actions, no matter what they are, and people will believe you and trust you.

            When I think about all the “little lies” and how they add up to a BIG LIE, it makes me know the San District must have a serious look by an outsider.

            (9) 11 Total Votes - 10 up - 1 down
  5. falconbh says:

    Long tax year coming to all South County taxpayers,
    1. Sanitation District
    2. Water Rate Increases
    3. Five Cities Fire wants more…..

    (12) 14 Total Votes - 13 up - 1 down
    • falconbh says:

      South County Cities and Districts- Really hard to support all these tax and automatic rate increases.
      Waste and Fiscal Mismanagement- Lawsuits, Legal Costs, Excessive Management Costs, Early Retirements 90%, Termination
      Pay, Retirement Contributions Increases, Failure To Keep Insurance Current, Using infrastructure funds for pay increases, Using water crisis and ratepayers good faith conservation to raise rates, Backroom deals to hide fiscal mismanagement.

      (5) 9 Total Votes - 7 up - 2 down
      • agag1 says:

        Makes you wonder why the majority of the current and past boards wants to continue toprotect Wallace…

        Doesn’t it seem like we should be going after the crook/culprit to recoup some of that $$$ rather than passing along rate increases?

        (9) 13 Total Votes - 11 up - 2 down
  6. doglover says:

    We must dig into this crap to find the truth about FERRARA and WALLACE
    We will NEVER be done with BIG TONY until the San District finances and goings on are open for all to see.

    (26) 34 Total Votes - 30 up - 4 down
  7. justbeware says:

    Because Guerrero is still on the board, many would love to hear his explanation for this ‘shoot yourself in the foot’ strategy. Matt????

    The current board should 86 Seitz, do their best at settling this suit and move forward with restoring integrity at the plant.

    (26) 34 Total Votes - 30 up - 4 down
  8. catdude says:

    Is there some way to hold Wallace responsible for the tens of thousands of dollars he has cost the ratepayers? This guy has been ripping off the ratepayers blind for years and years. There must be some way to hold this thief responsible….

    (35) 41 Total Votes - 38 up - 3 down
    • marcusaurelius says:

      its not tens of thousands. Its in the multiple millions…..

      (34) 40 Total Votes - 37 up - 3 down
    • casappleton says:

      Yes he is the one responsible

      (32) 38 Total Votes - 35 up - 3 down
      • Snoid says:

        This outta be interesting if your Hubby gets the Los Osos plant lead man job. We assume he knows the LOCSD is taking control of the plant in a few years and Wallace is their engineer, and Seitz the legal mental masturbator.

        (4) 12 Total Votes - 8 up - 4 down
        • Julie says:

          Snoid, that is so interesting that you say Los Osos CSD will take over the plant. Please tell me where you heard that.
          As far as I know, and I was at the meeting in Sacramento when this was discussed, LOCSD is NOT taking over the plant any time soon. The State Water Board has said not at least for ten years after it begins operation (that could be 2027), of course, the ratepayers would have to decide to take it.
          It’s an enterprise fund, there’s no benefit to LOCSD to have control of it.
          I’m doubtful most would give any more power to the LOCSD anyway.

          (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down
        • casappleton says:

          Again with the nickname. Who are you about that you know anything about my family. Until you have the ability to say who you are….you have NO credability. Quit hiding and taking potshots.

          (0) 8 Total Votes - 4 up - 4 down
    • agag1 says:

      Let’s ask the current board!
      John Shoals seems content to drag his feet
      and pick up where his buddy Ferrara left off…blocking any attempts to go after Wallace.

      Guerrero was a no show at the last meeting, let’s see if he’s afraid to take some heat again tonight and sends Mary Lucey instead.

      Only new Mayor Jim Hill shows any sense of urgency, and a willingness to dig into the mess, but he’s outvoted by the other two when it comes to getting anything done.

      (24) 30 Total Votes - 27 up - 3 down
    • doglover says:

      How about a class action lawsuit and Matt Guerrero can be our prop bono attorney?

      (13) 17 Total Votes - 15 up - 2 down
      • justbeware says:

        As a defense attorney he would likely be more comfortable representing his buddy Wallace.

        (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
  9. Rich in MB says:

    $750,000 to Wallace….boy the inside scamming that was going on in AG….
    That place was sure a Rats nest under Defrauked Mayor Tony.

    (33) 41 Total Votes - 37 up - 4 down

Comments are closed.