|LACSD Ship Ocean Sentinel|
That is how it goes in L.A. County. The government always wants more money, and a carefully rigged system guarantees that they'll get it. The county boys really do have the whole thing pretty well wired up. After all, this is what they do for a living, and a good one it is, too. They make a lot, are well cared for, and retire on your dime at age 50. Then they play several decades of golf. A sport specially designed to keep otherwise useless individuals above the ground and deep in your pocketbook.
While there George discovered that the L.A. County Sanitation Districts (LACSD) sponsor fun ship cruises on a jaunty skiff called the Ocean Sentinel. And despite wails of poverty and the so very urgent need for their tax hike, this jolly craft goes to sea most weekends during the summer months to check out the fish and whales. A very pleasant diversion that the taxpayers kick in for.
A good time is guaranteed for all. Well, OK. As we shall see, almost all. But most certainly not you.
George Edwardz, free thinking and adventurous guy that he is, decided he would enjoy joining those fun loving L.A. County Sanitation Districts sewer dudes on one of these cruises. After all George, like the rest of us, is paying for these sewer ship junkets. So why shouldn't he go? Why shouldn't all of us go? Besides, you'd think that after ramming through yet another sewer tax hike the LACSD might be feeling some gratitude to the taxpayers and want to share some of their whale sightings.
So George put in for that sea cruise and, as you likely guessed, they told him he couldn't go. It turns out only "directors and above" from the sewage hierarchy get to take these little trips on the SS Ocean Sentinel. Along with, of course, their esteemed guests.
It isn't too hard to surmise what is really going on here. These sea cruises are tax payer paid junkets, conducted for the pleasure of posh and highly privileged county sanitation bureaucrats, their families and special friends. These apparently are also places where ethics challenged government officials can conduct their monkey business far beyond the purview of such intrusive unpleasantries as the Brown Act.
And since the only people who get to take these junkety sea cruises are the L.A. County sewage elite, how could this not be a private Love Boat jaunt for gossip swapping pols? What happens on the Ocean Sentinel stays on the Ocean Sentinel, I guess. Be it with fellow government officials, or someone from the office you've always dreamed of getting to know just a little bit better.
George Edwardz decided to do what any good citizen should do. He sent the LACSD boys a Public Records Act Request asking for a list of those who registered for the first sea cruise of the season. Which occurred just last Saturday. Here is what George put together:
George figured that under California state laws the Sanitation Districts would have no choice but to comply with his PRA. He would then be able to pin down who exactly was on the Sewage Ship (or "SS") Ocean Sentinel last Saturday, and then figure out if any possible Brown Act violations might have gone down.
Sadly, that wasn't to be the case. Instead George received the following letter from the law firm Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith.
In other words, they weren't about to cough up any lists. At least not right away. Those coy phrases about attorney-client privilege and "lawyer work product" being a pretty good indication that George will be paying for the photocopying of documents that will have the most relevant names blacked out. After all, the LACSD is this law firm's client, and therefore the people working for it are their charges as well.
All over the list of people who took a four hour cruise on a tightly restricted roster government boat. You can certainly imagine why.
So who is Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith? Here is how they describe themselves on their website (link):
On April 1, 1979, Lewis Brisbois opened its doors in Los Angeles with seven attorneys and a spirit of fearless commitment to client service and attorney satisfaction. Now, 35 years later, with more than 900 attorneys and 31 offices from coast to coast, that commitment is stronger than ever. It continues to inspire us to do more, to reach higher and to work harder for our clients so that the legacy of service, reliability and success that began in 1979 will continue long into a bright future.
So why do a bunch of guys who work for a county sewer department have such a prestigious law firm watching their backs? The answer is easy. In today's L.A. County even sewer dudes are a part of a bureaucratic elite. They get the same kinds of high priced lawyers that any well heeled executives in private industry might get.
Except that they're an elite that lives off of your tax money. And pretty damn well to boot.