I would like to take a moment to thank my various proofreaders and contributors. Motivators are: Jeff Renninger, Roger Muse, Jan Herrin and many others. Proofreaders are: Karen Meuse, Rick Seals, Donna Morris and Paul Coraccio. Behind the scenes, quietly fighting the battle: Gary Luckeroth, Lucy Johnson, Barbara Harris, Barbara Hensley, Roger Hensley, Russ Williford, Christy Williford, Glenn Vincent and others who have been in prominent positions and have asked to remain nameless.
You know who you are, and you have my gratitude, for without your courage, and your personal trust in me; this work would not have been possible.
This publication encapsulates from opinions formulated after reviewing facts as presented by the Kern County Grand Jury 2014-2015, notes from private sources, and interviews with concerned citizens of Rosamond, California and independent research into information readily found on the internet.
A sincere thank you to the public servants on the Kern County Grand Jury 2014-2015; while I do not personally know and have never met any of you, your selfless public service is an example to be followed. The following individuals are named in the grand jury report; again thank you; Mr. Dennis “Mike” Elliott, Foreperson; Ella Abrams; Loretta Avery; Weslie Brown; Gary Chaffin; Andrea Derrick; Sandra Essary; Richard Frank; Ray Grissom; Earlene Hightower; Judith House; Warren Jones; Mahlon Keel; Michael McNatt; Guy Porter; Barbara Rycerski; Donna Schaffel; Vaughn Shaw and Teresa Vasquez.
This work is dedicated to each of the more than 12,800 residents of Rosamond, California who are eligible to vote in hopes that you will realize the precious gift you have been given as American citizens.
As long as the vast majority of democratic society remains silent on community issues; they surrender their vote to the passionate minority and become subservient to those who govern over them from an unpopular platform. The three men; around whom this publication is centered, and their alleged actions have brought the spotlight of the Kern County Grand Jury.
Ed MacKay, Olaf Landsgaard, and Dennis Shingledecker were elected into office by a mere 26% of eligible voters who actually went to the polls. That said, I hope that eligible voters can use this publication as a guide to determine the future for the 2014 Class of the Rosamond Community Service District Board.
This publication is also dedicated to the thousands of veterans who have sacrificed for the cause of peace and in the defense of freedom; freedoms that we all too often, take for granted.
Located in Southern California’s Antelope Valley, Rosamond is an unincorporated town of around 18,000 residents at the hub of what has been called “Aerospace Valley”. Rosamond is the gateway to Edwards Air Force Base, and is just south of the emerging civilian spaceport at Mojave. To the south of Rosamond, are the twin cities of Lancaster and Palmdale.
Rosamond started life as a settlement named “Sand Creek” (the Valley’s water table was much higher back then). Initially, the settlement was off the beaten path, which in those days was a stage route running through Willow Springs, a few miles west. When the Southern Pacific Railroad routed a new Los Angeles-to-San Francisco rail line by Sand Creek in the late 1870’s, the settlement suddenly gained easy travel access. By 1885, the small town had grown enough so that a post office was established with David Bayles as postmaster, serving around 100 residents. Occasionally referred to in the early days as “Bayles Station” or “Baylesville”, the emerging town was officially named Rosamond after the daughter of a Southern Pacific Railroad official. In its earliest years, Rosamond primarily supported ranching activities, in addition to railroad operations.
Image 1: Circa 1875 extract from a California – Nevada map produced by Warren Holt, San Francisco, California. Rosamond was known as “Sand Creek” (located near the center/bottom of the image).
In the 1890’s gold mining first became a major activity, with the Lida (now Tropico) Mine producing tons of high-grade ore. Just north of Rosamond, the Soledad Mountain area was also extensively mined, and mines such as Elephant-Eagle, Asher, Yellow Dog and Golden Queen provided employment to hundreds. This activity declined over the years but surged again during the mid-1930’s after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt took America off the gold standard and gold prices subsequently rose. Suspension of gold mining by the government during World War II was a blow from which most mine operators never recovered. Limited mining operations continue in the area to this day, and include an on-going expansion project for the operations at the Golden Queen Mine Complex, just North of Rosamond.
Image 2: Circa 1912 Automobile Club of Southern California map depicting automobile routes in the Mojave/Willow Springs/Rosamond area (courtesy USC Digital Library online).
Around 1908, the massive Los Angeles Aqueduct project ramped up, bringing road improvement and an influx of workers and support operations to and through the area. Also during the early 20th century, farming, utilizing the then-abundant ground water, started to compete with ranching in the Antelope Valley.
World War II brought the military, with contract flight training operations being conducted by the Army at War Eagle Field and nearby auxiliary strips just south of Rosamond. Just north of town at Mojave, the Navy built an airfield and carried out extensive training for Navy and Marine Corps pilots. Most significant for the future of Rosamond, an existing remote training facility at nearby Muroc Dry Lake was upgraded in 1942 to become Muroc Army Air Base, a training and test facility. This post eventually evolved into Edwards Air Base, which continues today as the hub of America’s flight test and development operations, and a major economic factor influencing Rosamond and the surrounding cities.
After World War II, various industrial operations were conducted in the Rosamond area, including a carbon processing plant and some recycling operations, before declining profits and increasing operating costs forced them to close down. With cheap ground water available, the late 1940’s and continuing into the 1970’s were also boom years for farming, which gradually displaced much of the earlier ranching activity.
By the 1963, Rosamond was considered to be “The Hub of the Antelope Valley” (see Image 3, below).
Another major transportation milestone came in 1968 when the Antelope Valley Freeway (California Hwy 14) was extended to Rosamond. Los Angeles was now “freeway close”….by California standards. Although nearby aerospace activities, and an expanding local business-base employed thousands, some residents make the daily 70 to 80+ mile trek into the Los Angeles basin area (Rosamond, Ca. 93560.)
As we progress through 2015, Rosamond’s housing expansion matches the economy with new housing starts gradually appearing, providing a selection of new homes at attractive prices. The long-term view is that just the past 26 years Rosamond’s area population has expanded by a power of 10, and there is no doubt that the inevitable continuation of Southern California’s population growth will ensure Rosamond’s expansion in the decades to come. The winter of 2013 saw the beginnings of a long-lived drought that has been slowly taking its toll on the precious water levels far below the streets of Rosamond. That said, there is the ever present concern over a sustainable water source for the Antelope Valley and surrounding areas.
Having described Rosamond’s development into an unincorporated township in Western Kern County, let’s get to the crux of the matter at hand.
In 1966, the citizens of the Rosamond community voted to create the Rosamond Community Services District (RCSD) for the purpose of providing water and street lighting. The RCSD also provides for the collection and treatment of waste and storm waters. In 1998, the voters added two additional services to those originally approved in 1966: graffiti abatement, parks and recreation. The RCSD currently maintains nine wells, a waste water treatment facility, two parks, graffiti removal, 16 evaporation ponds, water banking, and over 550 street lights. A waste water project underway includes a “purple pipeline”, a secondary water delivery system for non-potable water to be used in irrigation. As water sources in California have become more and more critical, many districts are implementing non-potable systems to better utilize dwindling water supplies. The purple pipeline project was scheduled to be completed later in 2015; however, overall progress has been delayed by cost overruns and political infighting at the RCSD. Several issues have come to the forefront with recent RSCD directives and called into question the Board’s motives and actions. Lighting and sewer, in particular, pose problems for the RCSD Board and General Manager. A lack of community focus and a perceived dedication to “special interests” have resulted in frustration, confusion and an overall atmosphere of distrust among Rosamond residents.
The mission statement of the RCSD is, “To enhance the quality of life in the community by providing the essential services of safe drinking water, the treatment and disposal of sewage and other funded services in an environmentally effective and fiscally responsible manner (About Us.)
SETTING THE STAGE:
November 4, 2014 saw the culmination of a hotly debated general election. Of the 6,272 registered voters, an amazing, 92.8% of them came out to actually cast ballots. Much of the interest in the outcome of the election was stirred because three of the candidates ran a campaign based upon a “unified” ticket promising to be, “The Voice of the Community” (see Image 4, below). This political alliance, focused heavily on negative (or attack) ads on the incumbents and made campaign promises to take action on a number of issues well outside the RCSD jurisdiction. The fourth-placed candidate (Kathleen Spoor) finished the race just shy of 76 votes from breaking up the “unified” ticket alliance”. Three new Board members where swept into office; Mr. Morrison “Ed” MacKay, Mr. Olaf Landsgaard and Mr. Dennis Shingledecker. Having achieved election success, the three of them claimed a “bully pulpit” as long as they voted together on many key issues. Very soon it became obvious that they have become an unbreakable force; potentially capable of having unlimited power in forging the future of Rosamond into their own image.
Soon after the election, the general public began to have second thoughts concerning the motives of this newly formed “alliance” and the political power they held. Complaints began rolling in to the Kern County seat in Bakersfield.
Mr. Dennis Shingledecker: Born in 1959, he is registered as “President at Advanced Computer Solutions”, located in Quartz Hill, California. Advanced Computer Solution filed as an Articles of Incorporation in the State of California on Tuesday, January 27, 2015, as recorded in documents filed with California Secretary of State. He is a previous registered agent for Signature Communications, LLC; incorporated in California in 2004 and for unknown reasons, Signature Communications, LLC is no longer active. Primarily being a business man; Dennis has little or no previous political experience.
Mr. Morrison “Ed” MacKay: Born in 1938, an ordained minister serving at the Rosamond Church of Christ. Ed represents a past political influence as he previously served on the Rosamond Community Services District Board during the 1980s and 90s. To highlight some his previous RCSD involvement; he voted for and passed the assessment districts 1988-1, 1990-2 and 1991-3 that were used to sell $30,000,000 in improvement bonds. These bonds resulted in property defaults that still exist today and have cost the rate payers of RCSD tens of thousands of dollars in foreclosure and attorney fees (See Finding 14, for additional detail). Memories fade, and Ed was elected in 2014. He currently carries the gavel as the RCSD Board President, relying on his many years of experience to run the monthly Board Meetings.
Mr. Olaf Landsgaard: Born in 1960, is a lawyer specializing in civil litigation, real estate law, DUI defense, personal injury, and estate/business planning. According to his personal website; his past experiences have seen him serve as President of the Rosamond Rotary for 2001 to 2002, President Elect of the Antelope Valley Bar Association, and the Chairman of the Antelope Valley College Measure “R” Committee. Olaf has been practicing law in Rosamond for twenty years. He is involved in national, state and local issues that affect everyone. Olaf Landsgaard has been an active participant in government and participated in many local and regional events, to include attending the Inauguration of former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He could also be considered a Rosamond-area land magnate, as he and/or components of his family own approximately 100 parcels of land in Kern County, with the vast majority of those parcels located within the Rosamond Community Service District boundaries. His, parents Art and Marion Landsgaard came to the Antelope Valley in the later 1950’s or early 1960’s. In an interview posted online in August, 2015, by Mr. John Joyce, the family matriarch stated, “We [Art and Marion] came for our honeymoon and we stayed and then when Connie [daughter] was twelve, she had saved her money for a horse and we had to get a place in the country and we did. We’ve been out there for forty-seven years. (Joyce, J.)” Olaf is one of twelve children. In addition to being an RCSD Board member, he is the Secretary of the Rosamond Municipal Advisory Council (December 2008 – Present), he is the Lead Attorney of the Law Offices of Olaf Landsgaard (December 1986 – Present), a Rotarian, Rotary 5260 (February 1998 – January 2013) and the former Manager for Century 21 Avico Hometown, Est. 1972 (December 1988 – January 1995). Although his LinkedIn profiles states that “He carries the gavel as the RCSD Board President, relying on his many years of experience to run the monthly Board Meetings.” (Web. August 22, 2015.) He does not. That is Mr. MacKay’s position. [Editor’s note: Sometime before September 10, 2015, Olaf corrected his LinkedIn profile by removing all references to RCSD from it.]
Having set the stage and introduced the characters, it’s time to consider the actions that the Kern County Grand Jury took in response to the findings of their investigation that took place during spring, 2015.
PURPOSE OF INQUIRY:
The Kern County Grand Jury Report begins with, “In response to several complaints, the County Services and Special Districts Committee (Committee) of the 2014-2015 Kern County Grand Jury (Grand Jury) reviewed the District pursuant to California Penal Code §933.5.” The exact source of the complaints remains confidential (as with all grand jury complaints), therefore, I refuse to speculate on exactly who complained, but I have been told in confidence by reliable sources that the complaints where so wide-ranged and from such a diverse population that the Kern County Grand Jury had no choice but to look closer into the situation. I will tell you (on a personal note) as word began to spread that I was working on this project, I received several tips and clues from residents with concerns surrounding the actions and motives of the RCSD Board. Many of these tips have led to chapters within this book.
The Committee interviewed some of the District’s current Board members (Directors), previous Directors, the General Manager, staff and concerned citizens of Rosamond. The Committee reviewed the District’s past audits along with current and past budgets. Agendas and minutes for the past year were also reviewed. The Committee also attended a regular Board meeting.
- The November 2014 election resulted in three new Directors being seated.
- California Government Code §54950 (Brown Act) prohibits a quorum (three or more Directors) from meeting to conduct District business without a properly posted agenda.
- Directors are permitted to meet individually with District staff to discuss District business
- District staff is available to educate Directors and provide information about District business
- Agendas and approved meeting minutes are traditionally posted on the District’s website.
- The amount of time for approval and posting of minutes has exceeded typical District timelines
- The Board voted to have audio recordings of five Board meeting minutes transcribed, including two meetings prior to seating of new Directors
- Bills cannot be paid or actions begun without approved minutes
- On April 21, 2015, the Committee attended a regular District Board meeting.
- Attendees exceeded available seats
- Closed session action was not presented during the open session
- Public comment was permitted at the podium
- Comments made by Directors could not always be heard
- Roll call votes were not taken on action items
- The District serves as a collector of the $1 monthly street lighting fee.
- The District pays Southern California Edison for electricity and maintenance.
- Initially, the fee was sufficient to cover costs and build a reserve.
- The lighting fund reserve has been depleted.
- The cost of street lighting currently exceeds revenues generated.
- In order to increase fees, an election was held on May 14, 2014, establishing 40 new street lighting zones of benefit.
- These new zones brought the total to 51 zones of benefit
- Proposition 218 standards were followed
- The results of the election were mixed; some zones voted to pay increased fees and others voted not to have streetlights at all
- In the areas that voted not to pay fee increases, some lighting was turned off
- Disagreement exists between directors and staff on how to proceed with street lighting issues.
- Directors and staff have stated that plans are in place to re-evaluate lighting fees.
- The District provides sewer collection services for a flat rate established via a 2009 rate study which included incremental rate increases.
- In the past, the sewer fee was placed on the water bill.
- When residences were vacant and water service shut off, a water bill was not issued; therefore sewer fees were not collected.
- The sewer fee was removed from the water bill and placed on the tax bill by resolution on March 26, 2014, at a cost of about $50,000.
- This is common practice in the majority of districts that provide sewer services
- California Health and Safety Code §5473.1 authorizes this practice
- This resulted in a 96% collection rate for the 2014-2015 tax year, an increase of approximately $145,000
- The newly elected board voted four to one to place the sewer fee back on the water bill at an additional cost to the District of approximately $25,000, plus lost revenue. [Editor’s note: This action was taken based upon a campaign promise made by the newly elected board members.]
- The District’s Administrative Handbook section 3034.5.6 states, “A comprehensive rate study will be conducted at least every five years …”
5. Disagreement exists between directors and staff on how to proceed on sewer fee issue.
- The District provides water and wastewater treatment services.
- The District has been involved with the Antelope Valley East Kern Water adjudication.
- Litigation is scheduled to conclude summer 2015, board will lose future water rights
- Increases in water costs are projected
2. The District is using water banking to save water for the future.
3. A required water rate study has not been conducted since 2008.
4. The District’s Administrative Handbook section 3034.5.6 states, “A comprehensive rate study will be conducted at least every five years …”
- Parks and Recreation was added as a function of the district in 1998.
- When added, voters defeated a ballot measure providing funds for parks and recreation
[Editor’s note: The district tried in 1998, to get a special tax approved for parks and recreation. Voters were willing to grant the district parks and recreation powers but voted down an assessment that would have gone as high as $45 per year. Rosamond voters rejected by an almost two-to-one margin. The tax would have funded the construction of three new parks and improvements to United Street Park. At the time, Daniel Landsgaard an RCSD Board Member believed that the measure failed because of the way it was written, which loosely defined the assessment as being anywhere from $5 a year to $45 a year. He stated, “That measure was written under a deadline to get it on the ballot.”]
2. The District acquired Jim Williford Community Park from Kern County (County) in 2007.
- District receives approximately $230,000 in ad valorem tax revenue (discretionary revenue), and $82,000 from County Service Area to pay for park/pool maintenance
- Previous Boards have used the discretionary revenue to pay for park and pool costs
- Park and pool maintenance costs exceed funds available
- The District has voted to close the pool due to lack of funding
- The Board directed staff to return ownership of the park to the County
- The County has indicated that contract clauses exist making complicating the transfer
3. In 2007, the Board founded the Rosamond Foundation, a non-profit organization to support the Parks and Recreation Department.
To read the next section click here: The Midnight Writings: Finding 1 – “It Begins”