Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sewer Ship Shenanigans: The LACSD Sics Their Lawyers On Transparency Advocate George Edwardz

LACSD Ship Ocean Sentinel
You may recall that a week or so back we posted an article about our friend George Edwardz and his investigative trip to an L.A. County Sanitation Districts confab where a sewage treatment tax increase was being considered. Since this was a Prop 218 situation, and therefore both legal and fraudulent, the tax increase passed. There never was any doubt.

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.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

35 comments:

  1. Since when does a PRA require a lawyerly admonition? And to add insult into injury, we pay for that lawyer.

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    1. Good point. We pay for the lawyer to protect a government agency we also pay for ... from us.

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    2. Same thing in Sierra Madre. The city attorney protects city hall from anything that might interrupt the flow of tax money that keeps the good times rolling.

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    3. You guys would be horrified to see how they waste your money.

      If they don't want to provide it in electronic format, they refuse to do. Require legal counsel to review, who always tells them they have to comply. They just hope most people give up.

      The amount of letters they mail that are just copies of e-mails we've already discussed a week before they arrive. I even asked SF BART why they do that, given they seem to be in a location that is supposed to be environmentally friendly.

      They ignored me, which I guess is better than e-mailing me their reason, followed by printing out and mailing me a copy of the e-mail...

      Also, we just added a bunch of 2013 data to TransCal!

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    4. Robert - any new Sierra Madre revelations? The last bunch pretty much beat Measure UUT.

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    5. Unfortunately CA cities and special districts tend to wait until October of the following year to create their employee compensation report. So we won't have that data until around that time.

      The 2013 data we posted today was for counties, community colleges, and pensions.

      The pension stuff is amazing. In Orange County, the avg retiree receives 88% of their final salary in pension benefits their 1st year in retirement. Not a typo.

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  2. Loose lips sink ships...say that ten times fast. The truth comes out in the end.

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  3. Everyone, please keep in mind that the typical government employee, particularly in local cities and counties, is very "subpar" in most respects. They generally lack: higher education, committed work ethic, selflessness, compassion for those that facilitate their paychecks (you, the taxpayer), and integrity in most cases. When are we going to take the steps necessary to align these subpar individuals with compensation packages that coincide with their private sector counterparts? The time is now.

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    1. Places such as LACSD are like agricultural hothouses. All kinds of strange and exotic plants grow there that wouldn't survive a month in a more natural setting. They give themselves free weekend ocean boat rides while hitting up the taxpayers for even more tax money? Of course they do. They are that out of touch with reality.

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  4. many, many years ago i questioned why this city would build parks for dogs, and refuse to build one for kids to ride skateboards. I still do. i don't see many dog owners get stopped for walking their dogs on the street.

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    1. Kids are the most underserved segment of Sierra Madre's residents. A skate park makes sense. Instead we get a storage shed at Memorial Park for the senior's Hart Park House ping pong and bingo tables. Maybe if we gave kids the vote in City Council elections?

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    2. Please remember, you're asking a city that took over $200,000 from the funds that the Mountain Conservancy was supposed to use to buy up land for Hillside Preservation.

      What did the city do with it? They spent it on that monstrosity in Sierra Vista Park known as the YAC. Now there's a beautiful building.
      Oh, wait.

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    3. the kids couldn't do worse than us!

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    4. just got off the phone with the gas company. I now have no doubt in my mind as to why san bruno happened. money is definitely more important to them than human lives. i need to hit the keyboard on this one.

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    5. The kids didn't use the one they had a few years back so it was taken down.

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    6. There was an idea floating around a while back that the old Skilled Nursing Facility be replaced with a skate park. Too bad that didn't happen. It would have been far preferable to the hulking pile of wood emerging there now.

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    7. You don't like John Huttville?

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    8. 1,000 or so people in Sierra Madre voted against that thing. Proving that it is possible to find sane people in this town.

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    9. A few years ago? when was that? I have no memory of this, and i have been here 20 years

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    10. Every day I avoid driving down SM Blvd. because looking at it makes me sick.

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  5. It makes me doubly sad to read these simple, disturbing observations of bad behavior by our government.
    1. S.M. govt is as corrupt as a middle east potentate's
    2. the citizens whine but there is no action to remedy the situation. In which case we are complicit in the corruption.
    As a previous poster asked -what action can we take - other than the Draconian 'throw the bums out' ?

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  6. I want a boat ride. How many times do I have to flush to qualify?

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    Replies
    1. Often, I'd say. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats.

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    2. Where is Ed Norton when you need him?

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  7. the system is screwed up....

    we need to get rid of sierra madres local uut tax.

    and reduce the waster tax rate increase..

    the additional monies are paying for union taxes and $39,000 a year for city workers health insurance.

    its our time to get even....

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    Replies
    1. You're right on the money brother, and I'm with you 100%.

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  8. Gold water for gold-plated health plans.

    I can't wait until 7/1 when we get ANOTHER water rate increase.

    I wonder what the city wants me to cut so I can pay for my gold water?

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    Replies
    1. The higher the rates the worse the water. Think of what it will be like after the rates go up a few more times.

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  9. The Tattler just crossed the 2.4 million hits mark!
    "Nobody reads The Tattler." - Josh Moran (former Sierra Madre City Councilman)

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    1. Mayor of RealvilleJune 17, 2014 at 4:18 PM

      Old Civility Party members don't fade away, they disappear!

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    2. There is a chapter of Civility Party Anonymous that meets at Bailey Canyon Park once a month. There are now only two members left in town.

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  10. Congratz on the 2.4 milion hitsmark Sierra Madre tattler dot blogspot dot com :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The secret to hits success is post a couple thousand times. That way the Internet is filled with your links, whether people like it or not. Something that brings a lot of trusting souls here. That is why they call it the worldwide web. Cast it far enough and you'll catch all kinds of things.

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