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An intriguing look into the events start led to a Kern County Grand Jury investigation.
An intriguing look into the events start led to a Kern County Grand Jury investigation.

Acknowledgements

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.

Dedication

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.

INTRODUCTION

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 1Image 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

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).

Image 3Image 3: Circa 1963 Promotional Flyer for a Rosamond community event.

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.

Image 4Image 4: Campaign flyer by Shingledecker, MacKay, and Landsgaard.

THE CHARACTERS:

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.

PROCESS:

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.

FACTS:

  • The November 2014 election resulted in three new Directors being seated.
  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  1. The District pays Southern California Edison for electricity and maintenance.
  2. Initially, the fee was sufficient to cover costs and build a reserve.
  3. The lighting fund reserve has been depleted.
  4. The cost of street lighting currently exceeds revenues generated.
  5. 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
  6. Disagreement exists between directors and staff on how to proceed with street lighting issues.
  7. 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.
  1. In the past, the sewer fee was placed on the water bill.
  2. When residences were vacant and water service shut off, a water bill was not issued; therefore sewer fees were not collected.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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”

 

Finding 1 – “It Begins”

Finding: # 1 Evidence shows three or more Directors met privately on at least one occasion to conduct District business without a posted agenda.

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

A layman’s explanation of what may have led to the Grand Jury’s finding:

To completely understand the very first incident resulting in a violation of the Brown Act, one must consider the method and manner in which the peaceful transfer of governmental responsibility shift from the outgoing (election losers) board members and the incoming (election winners).

Traditionally in the United States, when an election is held it is very important in our society to show a peaceful transition of power whether it be the president, governor or small town politics.

In the case of the RCSD the transition takes place on the 2nd Tuesday of December (in this case it should have taken place on December 9, 2014). During the transition (swearing in) ceremony the outgoing Board calls the meeting to order and then those who lost the election rise and step down from the Dias and the newly elected members take their seat up on the Dias and are then sworn in by the Board secretary. Contrary to recognized past practice established over time, MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker were sworn in five days earlier on December 5, 2014 at the Chamber of Commerce by the Chamber President. There will be more discussion on this issue in the next section covering Finding # 2.

Now that I have established the background, let’s examine a series of events that took place on or around December 5, 2014 (before the actual swearing in date). The Grand Jury considered evidence in the form of emails and private communications between the newly elected board members, wherein the newly elected board members actually discussed and took action against Mr. Steve Perez that resulting in his dismissal prior to the first officially sanctioned RCSD Board Meeting on December 12, 2014.

In the Grand Jury’s view it is very important to keep this nationwide tradition that every elected body demonstrates a public display of a peaceful transition of power. While, MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker responded to the Kern County Grand Jury, “we started a new tradition”; the reply by the (majority of) the board to Finding # 1, was a basic disagreement with a response stating that the report is unclear as to the date & time of participants and therefore the board cannot respond to it as stated. [Editor’s note] Please make a mental note of Olaf’s approach to “New Traditions”, later on in the document (page 134, you will read about the manner in which he refers to the street address at which he lives.

In layman’s terms, the board refused to do the mental calendar check based upon the facts provided below and acknowledge that the signed agenda notes clearly indicate some form of collusion between the three new members that took place sometime during the week prior to those agenda notes being signed.

From this writer’s perspective, this simple act of choosing not to follow social norms in indicative of the lack of respect that Mr. Morrison “Ed” MacKay, Mr. Olaf Landsgaard, and Mr. Dennis Shingledecker have for the traditions surrounding the office to which they were elected.

The fact that these three men acted of their own accord, without the full board being present indicates that they decided to set a new standard of normalcy for the RCSD. From the very beginning they have been determined to do run things according to their agenda.

At the time, there was much speculation that the three of them had met since the election to confer about implementing their agenda; Mr. Landsgaard was asked by the “The Valley Press” immediately after the election on how his lawsuit would affect his work with RCSD General Manager, Mr. Steve Perez. Mr. Landsgaard said, “Steve is a smart man and he should know what he needs to do next and he needs to go.” Besides this cited reference, there were many references that Steve Perez would be fired. The references all took place after the election and prior to the decided transition date of December 5, 2014.

Additional details to support the Grand Jury’s Finding:

Evidence found by the Kern County Grand Jury is that on December 5, 2014 around 5:30PM the RCSD, Board Secretary, Ms. Lizzette Guerrero received an email from Ed MacKay with an agenda dated for Monday December 8, 2014 that was signed by MacKay, Landsgaard and Shingledecker. On the agenda, they had listed the intent to fire General Manager Perez and RCSD Attorney, Mr. John Gibson (see Findings # 7 and # 22 for more information).

On December 7, 2014 Olaf Landsgaard sent an agenda to Lizzette for December 10, 2014 that the three of them had written up and signed. Steve Perez was not listed as General Manager, instead it was RCSD Assistant General Manager, Mr. John Houghton and the agenda only asked for his report. Again, I remind you this was done after a legal posting of the regular board meeting by RCSD staff on Friday, December 5, 2014 at 2:30PM.

Let the evidence speak for itself.

1.) MacKay, Landsgaard and Shingledecker met together on December 5, 2014 to discuss and draft their own agenda that included action items to fire both the General Manager & the Attorney.

2.) Sometime over this weekend, perhaps the same day, they met together to write up another agenda for December 10, 2014 and on this agenda they omitted Steve Perez as General Manager.

3.) Because the agenda they wrote for December 10, 2014 (with Steve Perez no longer listed as General Manager) demonstrated that the three of them had already come to a decision to fire Steve Perez on Monday, December 8, 2014 (see Images 5-8, below).

4.) On December 8, 2014 they fired Attorney, John Gibson with no discussion, a simple motion, and vote.

5.) The fact that BOTH of these agendas (and the language they used) clearly showed that the [agendas] were written and signed by the newly elected Board members (MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker) and the omission of Steve Perez and John Gibson on the December 10, 2014 agenda showed that the three of them decided during their illegal meeting(s) to take action to fire both Perez and Gibson.

6.) On August 26, 2015, Direct Byron Glennan addressed the public at a Regular RCSD Board Meeting. He proceeded to present a letter address to the Kern County Grand Jury concerning his disagreement with the RCSD “Official” Response as previously file (see Image 9, below).

This single act of Mr. Glennan brings hope to the general public in Rosamond that justice can prevail. With this single act, Byron lends credibility to the Grand Jury’s Findings and separates himself from the Ed, Olaf and Dennis Alliance.

 Image 5

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Image 6

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Image 7

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Image 8

Image 8
Images 5 - 8: Agenda signed by MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker (Prior to the actual meeting). 

 Image 9

Image 9:  Response from Byron Glennan to Kern County Grand Jury concerning Finding #1.

====================== Finding # 1 states: “Evidence shows three or more Directors met privately on at least one occasion to conduct District business without a posted agenda.”

The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 1: “The Board is without sufficient knowledge or information to form a belief as to the truth of this finding and on that basis disagrees with this finding. The Board notes that the Report is unclear as to the date, time and participants relating to the alleged improper conduct.”

 

To read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: Finding 2 – “Breaking Tradition”

Finding 2 – “Breaking Tradition”

Finding # 2: Some Directors did not follow District tradition for the formal swearing in and seating of newly elected directors.

What the requirement and why is this important?

When an election is held it is very important in our society to show a peaceful transition of power whether it be the president, governor or small town politics in the case of the RCSD the transition takes place on the 2nd Tuesday of December after an election where the old Board calls the meeting to order and then those who lost the election rise and step down from the Dias and the newly elected members take their seat up on the Dias and are then sworn in by the Board secretary.

Pertaining to this finding, MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker were sworn in five days early on December 5, 2014 at the Chamber of Commerce by the Chamber President.

In the Grand Jury’s view it is very important to keep this nationwide tradition that every elected body demonstrates a public display of a peaceful transition of power.

MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker responded to the Kern County Grand Jury, “we started a new tradition”. From this writer’s perspective, this simple act of choosing not to follow social norms in indicative of the lack of respect that MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker have for the traditions surrounding the office to which they were elected.

The fact that these three men acted of their own accord without the full board being present, they decided to set a new standard of normalcy for the RCSD and from the very beginning they have been determined to do this according to their agenda.

No discussion concerning political tradition can be considered without actually finding an example from the past.

Here’s an historical example of the importance of the shift of power from incumbents to the newly elected.

Let’s go back to the national election of 1800…the Federalists under John Adams favored a strong central government and a national bank. Additionally, they feared a flat democracy knowing that history demonstrated that form of government never lasted long—they considered it mob rule.

The Anti-Federalists, under Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party, were diametrically opposed in almost every way, and favored strong state government, limited central government, property rights, and strong protections for individual rights.

Quite the significant choice for the voter!

No one knew after the election; which seemed to last forever and was the closest ever (until the Presidential election of 2000) what would happen. Would the Federalists, led by John Adams, give up power peacefully or would there be revolution, secession, or civil war.

Thomas Jefferson repealed the Alien and Sedition Acts, brought the Democrat-Republicans to power for a period of years, and indirectly brought about the demise of the Federalist Party.

In almost every election since then, no matter how bitter the race for president, the country and opposing parties have conceded power to the victor and the victor’s party for the next 4 years and worked together for the good of the country as a whole.

That, in a nutshell, is the beauty of the Constitution in particular and of the political traditions of this country in general and in my opinion is the very crux of the argument at hand.

Political traditions are not started on a whim, imagine the public debate and proposed legislation to establish a two-term limit upon the highest office in the land?

Now tell me that the three of the five most powerful men in little old Rosamond, California didn’t meet (in continuation of finding # 1) in private to discuss the very district business they deny discussing… so tell me how did they decide to “start a new tradition” outside the bounds of conducting official business. Where was the public notice? What about the spirited discussion that makes this country great? What is so special about the three elected officials, that they aren’t subject to the very same traditional restraints that have kept this country as a functioning republic?

The triumvirate of MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker, singlehandedly disrespected the very foundations of democracy by turning a selfish and blind eye to the very political traditions that swept them into office. They clearly were so focused on exacting political revenge, that they summarily dismissed the treasured political traditions of the very institution to which they were elected.

The main “take away” of finding # 2:

The actions of MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker demonstrate that from the very beginning they were determined to act as a solid block of three and not work as a board of five. Even their response to the finding indicating that “they wanted to start a new tradition” tells us that even after raising the eyebrows of the Kern County Grand Jury, these three men operate from an arrogance not commonly seen even in the most corrupt of politicians.

====================== Finding # 2 states: “Some Directors did not follow District tradition for the formal swearing in and seating of newly elected directors.”

The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 2: “The Board agrees with this finding. However, the Board notes that the newly elected directors in November 2014 created a new tradition for swearing in and seating which fully adheres to the law.”

 

To read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: Finding 3 – “Inaction”

Finding 3 – “Inaction”

Finding # 3: During the Committee’s investigation, a review of meeting minutes showed that the newly elected Board often failed to act on agenda items. Many were tabled with little or no discussion.

The evidence supporting this finding is obviously the very meeting minutes, so let’s talk about the importance on meeting minutes for a moment.

Minutes serve as the official record of an organization. It is crucial that they are accurate since they are the legal record of the proceedings and actions of the organization. This is based on Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised, 10th, 2000 Edition. Among the things that are not to be included in the minutes are: “Opinion or interpretation of the secretary who is an officer of the board. Minutes are supposed to reflect what actually happened and was said and you can do that one of two ways: 1) You can give an overall accounting and a synopsis of the meeting or 2) You can present a verbatim account the meeting.”

Where’s the evidence?

According to the evidence (meeting minutes) and individual interviews presented to and conducted by the Kern County Grand Jury, during meetings held between December 2014 and March 2015 the RCSD Board either tabled or took no action on 23 action items. I shall present recaps of those very meeting minutes in a later chapter, as they contain spoilers for Finding # 5.

The inactivity and lack of involvement resulted in an unnamed public commentary that three newly elected members “looked like the Three Stooges up there clearly confused”. Furthermore, it was also stated, “When [Ed MacKay, Olaf Landsgaard, and Dennis Shingledecker are] challenged by the public they seemed to table that items hoping for a less challenging crowd on a future date.”

On several other occasions major items of complex nature appeared on the agenda but drew little or no discussion, in these sessions, either Landsgaard or Shingledecker would make a motion and MacKay would ask for the question without any discussion.

Historically, more experienced board members would carry-on at length and take time to consider dissenting opinions. This discussion carried out to the extent that board members would publicly explain the reasoning behind individual votes.

As stated in Finding # 2, MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker ran things from an aspect of creating “new traditions”. It is unknown at the time of this writing if the expediency with which complex matters were handled was a “New Tradition” or evidence that the newly elected board members continued the previously proven practice of executing RCSD Board business with an incomplete board reminiscent of “backroom deals” often seen in Hollywood productions.

====================== Finding # 3 states: “During the Committee’s investigation, a review of meeting minutes showed that the newly elected Board often failed to act on agendized items. Many were tabled with little or no discussion.”

The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 3: “The Board is without sufficient information by which to ascertain the meetings and minutes to which the Report refers and, on that basis, disagrees with this finding. The Board asserts that agendized items were, after discussion, reasonably and purposefully tabled in order for the Board to obtain additional information.”

 

To read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: Finding 4 – “Ill-Prepared”

Finding 4 – “Ill-Prepared”

Finding # 4: Directors appear ill-prepared to take action on agenda items.

Let’s draw a parallel to a student preparing for a final exam. Think of the study notes given by the instructor to the student. The study notes represent an agenda for the upcoming exam. Now consider the importance of the exam, there are exams for high school exit, exams for college entrance, exams for professional certifications… I think you get the picture.

As a public servant sworn to serve your local community you actually face an examination EVERYTIME you sit in front of your constituency. How dare a public servant not take the time to prepare for a public meeting? As a public servant in this capacity, the agenda serves as “study notes” for the exam the representative is about to take (in the form of) representing the interests of the community in matters vitally important to the very survival of the District.

Board Members owe it to the community they serve to be aware of previous matters, anticipate upcoming discussions and be prepared to interact professionally with community members.

In my research for this discussion, I discovered that RCSD Board members are paid $147.00 per meeting, regardless of how long the meeting lasts. In my opinion, with that level of compensation there is an inherent responsibility to at least perform in a manner commensurate with said compensation.

Back to the Grand Jury Report; the RCSD members were found “ill-prepared to take action on agenda items”. Apparently, because they do not take time to prepare themselves for meetings.

In the past as demonstrated in video recordings of session (readily available on YouTube) Board members are seen asking who, what, where & how at various agenda items before them. These basic questions clearly demonstrate that the members were gaining first-time exposure to several issues before them.

For example, when Steve Perez arranged a briefing with each one of the board members after they were elected to bring them up to speed on the issues they were facing, only Mr. Shingledecker was interested enough to show up. Interestingly Mr. MacKay and Mr. Landsgaard never took advantage of these “learning” opportunities.

As the General Manager, Mr. Perez is the responsible party for maintain information vital to the daily functions of the board. Not on a single occasion have any of them called Mr. Perez for information to prepare themselves for the meetings. This fact is evidenced by the fact that when someone from the community asks questions or makes a challenge, the board members get defensive or argumentative.

Clearly, these men are not prepared and do not know how to respond because they have not done any kind of research to form their positions on matters seemingly unimportant to them.

One final example to support this finding; on one occasion Mr. Landsgaard asked for the reinstatement of “Will Serve Letters” to be put on the agenda. When challenged on this action and questioned directly why in a stage 3 drought why would he want to guarantee water to contractors [special interests] when the town of Rosamond overall has been sacrificing to conserve its precious and limited water supply; he had no response.

Mr. Landsgaard was then asked if he had read the adjudication settlement [given to him five month previous to this meeting] and replied that he did not know all of the contents. Although his lack of understanding of the matter before the board was clearly demonstrated, Mr. Landsgaard rebuffed the questions pertaining to his understanding of the issue and pressed forward with an uninformed vote instead of calling for a vote delay to allow for more research.

To Board members, MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker; the past six months have been an exam, and you have failed miserably, the subpar performance of your elected duties in an irresponsible manner has levied undo risk upon the citizens of Rosamond. We deserve the best you can give us.

====================== Finding # 4 states: “Directors appear ill-prepared to take action on agendized items.”

“The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 4: “The Board disagrees with this finding. The Board asserts that this finding is mere opinion and speculation.”

 

To read the next section click here: The Midnight Writings: Finding 5 – “Bombshell”

Finding 5 – “Bombshell”

Finding # 5: Evidence shows that attempts have been made to alter the minutes outside of board meetings with facts not presented in open session.

You may be asking yourself, “What did I just read?” Yes, you read it correctly, The Kern County Grand Jury weighed evidence that showed that an effort was made to CHANGE the OFFICIAL RECORD of OFFICIAL BUSINESS of a governing body elected by the people of Rosamond! Specifically an attempt was made to include facts NOT presented in OPEN SESSION.

Here’s the background information you need to set the stage for this finding. It all began with the words that were exchanged when the Rosamond Community Service District tried to adopt the minutes for the meetings for November 12, 25, and December 3, 2014.

“Big city” politics applied to the Rosamond General Elections of 2014:

Mr. Landsgaard (as an incoming Board member) attended the three previously mentioned meetings and (basically) what he was trying to do was to get language put into the minutes which would document alleged “Brown Act” violations (he attempted something similar prior to November 2014, in an apparent attempt to continue a theme that Landsgaard championed during the previous political season…an attempt to tarnish the reputation of the incumbent board members to gain an advantage in the upcoming elections). In this “brilliant” attempt at political gamesmanship, Mr. MacKay and Mr. Shingledecker were holding the reins and following Mr. Landsgaard “lead” down the path of unproven political charges and allegations.

Now the stage is set, let’s look at each set on minutes for each of the three dates in question.

November 25, 2014: During a closed session of the RCSD, Mr. Landsgaard commented that “he had heard a rumor that the [board] would be talking about the attorney’s contract”. Also present at the closed session was Board member, Al Wallis. It is no secret in Rosamond that Mr. Landsgaard and Mr. Wallis have been aligned politically for quite some time (some of the locals jokingly say that Landsgaard and Wallis are founding members of the Diamond Street Social Club). It was Al Wallis who championed the previous failed recall effort (of 2014) and he was a key stakeholder in that recall and would continually make comments regarding the three candidates running for the 2014 election (MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker). The detail of those comments indicated the he was much closer to the candidates than his fellow board members we were led to believe. Accordingly, Mr. Wallis fell suspect to allegations of fellow board members that he was actually “leaking” information from the closed session to MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker. There is simply no other way to explain Mr. Landsgaard seeking confirmation of a “rumor” he “heard”.

Mr. Wallis’ mentorship skills with the newly elected members are evident, in that the students possess the same lack of organization and preparedness to discuss official Rosamond business. He was never really up on what was happening during meetings. According to some peers, “never once [did he] open his agenda and [judging from the] comments [he made] during meetings even have a clue to what was going on. Truly the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.

Ultimately, the board did, in fact discuss the attorney’s contract in closed session. Underpinning this back story, is the fact that Mr. Landsgaard only got part of the information from his source according to an article written by Mr. Landsgaard in “The Rosamond News” on December 1, 2014.

You need to really pay attention here, this could get confusing. Don’t worry… you may actually relate to Ed, Olaf, and Dennis in your confusion… now read on…

The detailed contract discussions addressed the fact that Mr. John Gibson had two contracts for the RCSD.

1) A contract for litigation to represent Mr. Perez, who, in his libel lawsuit against Mr. Landsgaard, per his employment contract which was signed several months before the RCSD hired him as District counsel. Mr. Landsgaard, Mr. MacKay and Mr. Shingledecker were unaware of this contract. Additionally, Board member, Al Wallis did not know about this contract either (even though he voted to retain Mr. Gibson for the litigation).

2) A contract for $7,400 a month to represent the RCSD in legal matters. (Mr. Landsgaard, Mr. MacKay and Mr. Shingledecker were fully aware of this contract)

What makes the meeting of November 12, 2014 significant is that RCSD went into a closed session under Government Code Section 54956.8 “Contract Negotiations” (which is the same justification they used for the November 25, 2014 meeting). So basically Mr. Landsgaard was informed after the meeting on November 12, 2014 that the RCSD was going to be discussing extending John Gibson’s contract. This is the very reason that Mr. Landsgaard was in attendance on November 25, 2014 (he never came to meetings before that) so when the board fired Mr. Gibson on December 8, 2014, they had no idea that there were two contracts. Imagine the confusion, I am even amazed that I can even tell this story.

As a point of order, I want to clarify the record. On November 25, 2014, when the Board came out of closed session Mr. Landsgaard challenged them on the Government Code number 54956.8 which was for real estate contract negotiations the attorney said he did not catch the wrong code number but the description was right, the board was in closed session for contract negotiations but for legal reasons the attorney advised them not to take action until they could go into closed session under the right code number which was 54957(b).

December 3, 2014: Contrary to what Mr. Landsgaard claimed, this meeting had already been scheduled before the November 25, 2014 meeting to vote on the ground water adjudication lawsuit settlement and because the meeting was already planned the board simply took the closed session item that was under the wrong code number from the November 25, 2014 meeting and pushed it to the December 3, 2014 meeting.

One agenda item for the meeting was to allow Board members to purchase the IPads that had been furnished to them by the RCSD to minimize the opportunity for identity theft, and due to the amount of time it would take for each outgoing board member to transition data out of the devices (besides, the re-purchase was included in the original motion at the time of the purchase by RCSD).

Two articles appeared in “The Rosamond News” (a local newspaper, ironically published by a non-local, Mr. John Joyce who maintains his residency in Acton, California) between December 1 and 8, 2014) (you can find the copyright protected article from the December 1, 2014 and December 8, 2014 editions of “The Rosamond News” at these URLs: http://www.joycemediainc.net/ros20141201/Cover.html and http://www.joycemediainc.net/ros20141208/Cover.html respectively.) in these two articles, Mr. Landsgaard said he tried to get the board to place into the official minutes over 2,100 words. Words that, in fact, were his words alone and were not even spoken at the meeting as he claimed, he even tried to add words that were spoken during closed session since he maintained he could hear the Board members talking through the “soundproof” door.

Landsgaard also even filed a freedom of information act request on December 4, 2014 for the IPads. In the article appearing in “The Rosamond News”, on December 1, 2014, he wanted “all emails, all communications, all notes, and information, including but not limited to emails, messages, pictures, documents, notes on the IPads purchased by the RCSD, including those of Rick Webb, Kathleen Spoor, Greg Wood, Byron Glennan, Steve Perez and John Gibson”. Ironically, in the form of a smoking gun he left his longtime friend Al Wallis off the list but made sure to included sitting board member Byron Glennan.

So let me bring this all home, Mr. Landsgaard tried so desperately to add 2,192 words to the minutes of November 11, 25, and December 3, 2014 because (in my opinion):

1) Placing these additional words in the minutes would lend credibility to the statements by making them official. This would also bolster his case in the ongoing lawsuit in which Olaf Landsgaard and John Joyce were defendants.

2) By adding these minutes Olaf apparently felt it would void the contract for attorney John Gibson; thus hurting and damaging John Gibson and again ultimately bolster Olaf’s legal position and that of his co-defendant, John Joyce, in the libel lawsuit.

3) Adding these minutes would give them backing as he moved to fire Mr. Perez.

4) Adding these minutes would make it appear that the previous board had been violating the Brown Act. (This is something they continually claimed but had no proof of so they would simply fabricate the proof and vote to make it an official government document.)

5) Also, adding these minutes they could void the sale of the iPads; and get their hands on them (after all Dennis Shingledecker owns a computer business) to see if they could find any information that would help them fulfill their agenda such as firing Mr. Perez, not having to pay Mr. Gibson his fees, and obtain any information to help in the lawsuit.

I realize this seems like a laundry list of speculation (it is my opinion, after all), but Mr. Landsgaard desperately wanted to get his hands on the iPads as demonstrated by his Freedom of Information Act request.

In choosing to ignore the obvious, their response to the Grand Jury report was to deny any of this ever happened.

Let’s go back to the finding. Evidence shows that attempts have been made to alter the minutes outside of board meetings with facts not presented in open session. In short, the actions of Mr. Landsgaard attempted to disenfranchise the voters in Rosamond by disrespecting the role of the official meeting minutes. As a lawyer, Olaf should realize that under Penal Code section 132, “it is a felony to offer in evidence as genuine or true any book, paper, document, record or other written instrument knowing it to have been forged, fabricated, fraudulently altered or ante-dated. It is also a felony under Penal Code section 134 to prepare and produce any false documentary evidence during a trial, proceeding or inquiry authorized by law.” Based upon the manner he conducts official business, it is my opinion that perhaps even compliance with the law is an optional item for him.

====================== Here are two links to YouTube videos of Public comments for December 1 and 8, 2014 RCSD Meetings:

December 1, 2014 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nc9pWJ1RXiY December 8, 2014 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dk_WMBVgSxM And a final link discussing the consequence of modifying meeting minutes: http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-associations-20150419-story.html

====================== Finding #5 states: “Evidence shows that attempts have been made to alter the minutes outside of board meetings with facts not presented in open session.”

“The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 5: “The Board is without sufficient information by which to ascertain the evidence to which the Report refers and, on that basis, disagrees with this finding. The Board notes that the Report is unclear as to the date, time and participants relating to the alleged attempts to alter minutes outside Board meetings.”

 

To read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: Finding 6, 7 and 8 – “A Matter of Trust, Delay, and Delay Regardless of Costs”

Finding 6, 7 and 8 – “A Matter of Trust, Delay, and Delay Regardless of Costs”

Finding # 6: Transcription of meeting minutes created unnecessary costs and delays for the District.

This finding is the result of the newly elected board members not trusting or believing the minutes prepared by Ms. Lizette Guerrero (the Board secretary). Mr. Landsgaard, Mr. MacKay, and Mr. Shingledecker spent almost $2,000 dollars to bring in an outside contractor to listen to the tapes and transcribe the minutes of numerous meetings. In the keeping with the theme of starting “a new tradition” (refer to Finding # 2) the three freshman board members did something that has never been done. They forsook their trust in a duly appointed officer of the board and arbitrarily decided on this wasteful course of action.

As discussed in Finding # 5 there are two ways to report minutes. 1) A word for word report from audio recordings (very expensive and time consuming, also for the most part completely unnecessary for such a small town) or 2) the secretary provides a “Reader’s Digest” version (almost no cost, very quick, also short and sweet and covers the main points of the meeting).

In selecting either one of the two recognized methods, the goal is to have the minutes that will 1) stand up the formal review (in case of litigation) and 2) give an accurate accounting of what transpired at the meeting (without going into a lot of unnecessary detail).

While excess expense of transcribing the minutes from actual audio records is the main point of Finding # 6, this practice generated at least two negative impacts upon the RCSD Board. Let’s look at the first of the two negative unintended consequences resulting from such an amateur decision.

Finding # 7: Since the seating of the new Board, approval of minutes has been delayed beyond reasonable time limits.

The Kern County Grand Jury considered specific evidence that identified excessive delays in the creation, approval and final posting of the official meeting minutes for meetings held on November 12, 25, and December 3, 2014. Additional evidence indicated that there were other meetings impacted by the transcription decision rendered by Ed, Olaf, and Dennis. The backlog of approved official minutes exceeded 60 days, these delays created delays in board action of several agenda items, thus highlighting the need for timely documentation of RCSD Board activities. Let’s look at the second of the two negative unintended consequences resulting from the decision not to trust the Board secretary in the performance of her official duties.

Finding # 8: Delays in approving minutes held up bill payment and other District business.

When operating a business or a service providing organization, it is important to maintain a customer focus at all times. Granted, RCSD is the only show in town when providing community services; RCSD does not have autonomy to function without the will of the electorate.

Upon official posting of meeting minutes, a process begins which includes taking care of due expenses, awarding and closing out contracts, acting on resolutions (many of them “time-sensitive”, and carrying out all of the dealings of the District. Until the minutes are approved some bills cannot be paid, budgets cannot be adopted and implemented, and reports to the county or state are delayed. All the while, customers begin to doubt your effectiveness and professionalism as an organization.

One example of the negative impacts of such a delay came to the surface in a board meeting held on December 10, 2014.

An audit presentation from Brown & Armstrong, an independent certified public accounting agency located in Bakersfield http://bacpas.com/about-us/ to accept and approve the mandated audit for the year 2013-2014 (the final audit for the previous board). The new board members were completely unprepared to receive the audit and appeared did not have a clue as what it was about, nor the circumstance resulting in the audit.

On a side note, the 2013-2014 RCSD Audit resulted an “Unmodified Opinion” which is the highest grade an organization can receive from for an audit. In short, the audit determined that the RSCD bookkeeping documentation, accounts receivable and expense accounts were 100% error-free.

Having just finished a very negative campaign against the previous board members, emphasizing expense overruns, bad business practices and the like; it seems that the MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker couldn’t quite handle the slap in the face by a perfect audit…essentially erasing any of the “logic they based their campaign upon”…could you imagine how embarrassing that would be?

Specifically, the three of them campaigned based upon allegations that:

1) General Manager, Steve Perez and the former Board members misplaced funds, 2) spent $400 a night on hotel rooms, 3) hid money, 4) maintained expense accounts of more than $100,000 a year, 5) spent $10,000 a month on travel, and 6) other claims of fiscal irresponsibility.

Ultimately the above allegations were proven completely false by the Brown & Armstrong audit. I reiterate, an independent audit report gave General Manager Steve Perez, the former Board of Directors and the RCSD staff not only a clean audit report but also an “Unmodified Report”

Need I say it again? The highest rating an organization you can receive from an audit!

This report proved that everything that the MacKay, Landsgaard and MacKay had been telling the community for the prior six months had allegedly been a lie. I just want to know when did/or will the alleged lying stop?

I guess when you are not trustworthy, you tend not to trust people. I am beginning to see a common theme here… are you?

Predictably, the newly elected Board members almost immediately questioned the qualifications of the accounting firm. They did not want to approve it and actually wanted the auditor to come back the following month and make another presentation to the RCSD. Accountant, Brad Rockabrand informed the Board that delaying the approval would cost another $700 and hold up bill paying and reports for which Kern County and the State of California were waiting. Disregarding the experts, they chose to “do their own thing” and refused to accept the report on December 10th.

I guess the board’s actions that night were similar to someone channel surfing when there’s nothing good to watch on television…you keep changing channels hoping for something better. In this case, that Audit Report was the only game in town that night and Ed, Olaf, and Dennis were in search of an non-existent smoking gun again serving their agenda and self-serving interests at the expense of the Rosamond Community Service District ratepayers.

====================== Finding # 6 states: “Transcription of meeting minutes created unnecessary costs and delays for the District.”

“The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 6: “The Board partially disagrees with this finding. The Board agrees that the costs for the transcription of meeting minutes was rather high but disagrees that the delays associated therewith were unnecessary.”

====================== Finding # 7 states: “Since the seating of the new Board, approval of minutes has been delayed beyond reasonable time limits.”

“The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 7: “The Board disagrees with this finding. The Board responds that there is no time limit on obtaining accurate minutes.”

====================== Finding # 8 States: “Delays in approving minutes held up bill payment and other District business.”

“The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 8: “The Board disagrees with this finding. The Board responds that delays in approving minutes do not affect the payment of bills because bills are paid before the meeting.”

 

To read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: Finding 9 – “Disorderly Conduct”

Finding 9 – “Disorderly Conduct”

Finding # 9: At the April 21, 2015 meeting, public comment proceeded in an orderly and timely fashion.

So when is a good Kern County Grand Jury finding actually a bad finding? This gets a little complicated, as are many things in our small town.

I will begin by giving you a little insight into the NORMAL happenings at a Rosamond Community Service District Board Meeting. As I layout the story for you, please understand that on the surface this finding is great and it would appear to confirm that all is well in Rosamond.

I challenge you to watch any of the RCSD meetings that are available on YouTube or better yet…attend a meeting or two. I am sure you will come to the conclusion that things are not well in Rosamond, California.

This finding is complicated because given the overall negative theme of the Grand Jury report, it appears to be out of place and reads as if it is a positive finding. Word on the street is that the RCSD Board Members knew in advance that members of the Kern County Grand Jury were in attendance on the night of April 21, 2015. In a surreal manner, the board members really minded their “P’s & Q’s” on that evening. So yes, public comment was orderly and timely ON THIS ONE EVENT, believe me it is far from the norm and doesn’t tell the entire story.

Let’s go back to the meeting on December 8, 2014 (the very first OFFICIAL meeting that included the newly elected Board members).

It was standing room only! The crowd was loud and emotional. Rightfully so, many in the group had already heard through the grapevine that the Board was going to fire General Manager, Steve Perez and Attorney, John Gibson (see Image 10, below) this was the resultant meeting spurred on by those ILLEGAL meetings [as cited previously in Finding # 1]). Board President, Morrison “Ed” MacKay was losing control and threatened to have the room cleared if the crowd did not “shut up” (his words) when the crowd would not stop their objections, Mr. MacKay verbally threatened to “call the sheriff and have everyone removed”.

Being a man of his word, Board President MacKay and long-term Reserve Kern County Sheriff Deputy, pulled out his cell phone and called the Kern County Sheriff’s Office; shortly after that five deputies (side note, Rosamond ONLY has FIVE deputies) showed up at the meeting. (Unbeknownst, to Mr. MacKay, the deputies had been previously notified by Mr. Steve Perez.) It turns out to be great timing on the deputies’ part because they were simultaneously dispatched in response to Mr. MacKay’s, report of “a fight breaking out at the meeting” and Mr. Perez’s call for as a preemptive measure in case something got out of hand. After all, based upon his long relationship with the community and the drama being created by Ed, Olaf, and Dennis; Steve expected something dramatic to take place.

Mr. Perez was sitting in the conference room when the deputies arrived; this was because, he and fellow board members Mr. Glennan and Mr. Wallis chose not to participate in “an illegal meeting”. When the deputies arrived, one went into the conference room and asked Steve what was going on. Steve, being unaware of the “power play” by Mr. MacKay thought the deputy were there at his request said, “Nothing is going on”. Immediately, the deputy closed the door and informed Steve that they had received a phone call that a “fight had broken out at the meeting” which the deputies could see was not happening when they arrived.

Image 10

Image 10: List of alleged Brown Act violations from December 8, 2014 to February 16, 2015.

For a couple of months after that meeting 2 to 3 Kern County Deputies were at every meeting and their effect on the crowd was evident as people were reluctant to voice their opinions and the crowd was considerably more subdued it should be noted that during this period these deputies were there under orders from the Rosamond Substation Lieutenant to be there at the request of Mr. MacKay. It was discovered that Mr. MacKay had called the Lieutenant and requested them previously for the December 8, 2014 meeting there was no public comment allowed and Mr. Landsgaard made the comment that “Special Meetings do not require Public Comment”

Reflecting back to finding # 1 the Kern County Grand Jury disagreed with Olaf. For additional information on the Brown Act, please Google, “Brown Act: Public Comment 54954.3(a), 54954.2(b) & 54954.3(c)”.

At almost every turn, Mr. MacKay has done everything he can to squash public comment and criticism of the Board. One of his favorite method to achieving this “limitation of free speech” is to limit a person to a strict time limit and only allow a person to speak one time (unless that person is saying something that the board likes to hear).

Yes, you read that last part correct, case in point when the RCSD Board voted to remove the sewer bill assessment from property tax and place it back on the water bill; those that opposed were given a strict time limit and one opportunity to speak. Departing from the established “MacKay method of crowd control and free speech restraint”, a landlord told the board, “I own 19 rental properties and stand to gain a $9,000 tax break by this proposed action.” was allowed to speak in favor of the proposal at the podium for 30 minutes and was allowed to revisit the podium several more times and was even asked by the Board Members present to come back to the podium and speak in favor of the proposed action.

Ed MacKay continues to limit public comments and to find ways to intimidate the crowd to this day.

Here’s the final point on this finding. When the Board had an agenda item to discuss the Grand Jury Report on July 22, 2015, Mr. MacKay knowing that there was going to be a large crowd; possibly a crowd that would be very critical of the board, made his phone calls again. This explains the presence of two Kern County Sheriff deputies in the room, as noted by the Mojave Desert News in this past week’s edition.

Oh, on a final note: I did mention, just in case you skimmed over it; Mr. Morrison “Ed” MacKay is a long term Reserve Kern County Sheriff Deputy…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5-Q62lV3Sg (video from December 8, 2014)

====================== Finding # 9 states: “At the April 21, 2015 meeting, public comment proceeded in an orderly and timely fashion.”

The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 9: “The Board agrees with this finding.”

 

To read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: Finding 10 – “Whispers in Public”

Finding 10 – “Whispers in Public”

Finding # 10: Directors were difficult to see and comments were difficult to hear due to members being seated behind a dais which had an unusually high front. Whispered conversations between Directors were inappropriate.

Hmmm, what is a dais?

A dais is the wooden wall/bench from behind which the board members sit during the sessions.

To fully understand this finding, you kind of have to go behind the dais and place yourself right there in the lap of Olaf… from the board member’s position, it a very comforting feeling to be able to separate the constituents from the board members. With that comfort comes a relaxed feeling that you are sitting there with good friends. In fact, an imposing feature such as a dais can kind of make the person sitting behind it lose situational awareness…a simple amateur mistake if a person isn’t used to being in the seat of power.

In an effort to provide perspective for this finding, I searched high and low for complaints in similar situations of courtroom furnishings (particularly the dais) presenting ground for a grand jury finding. Not surprisingly, again Rosamond leads the way; only our dais stands in the annals of Kern County Grand Jury history of ever being named in a final report, much less given its very own finding. So here’s the real question.

Is it the dais or the behavior behind the dais that originated the nexus for Finding # 10?

The finding of the Kern County Grand Jury of the high dais front is very unique considering that it is a standard piece of courtroom furnishing. I even tried to order a custom made dais with a custom height…but guess what, they only come in one size. So really, the point of this finding is not the dais, it’s the paid elected officials representing the citizens of Rosamond sitting behind the dais. Using the dais as a tool to gain a “hand up or a tactical advantage” on an upset and otherwise consternation-filled audience.

To reinforce my belief, let’s go back to the 2012-2013 Kern County Grand Jury Report. You see, it’s not unusual for the Grand Jury to create reports on various service districts. In fact, every governing body can expect that is what the Grand Jury is for is to keep them on their toes (Grand Juries investigate governing bodies for two reasons 1) random selection (similar to that of an IRS audit) and 2) when a complaint is filed (this current board had a complaint filed and this report and its findings are the reason for this discussion (you can find the copyright protected article from the March 22, 2013 edition of “The Mojave Desert News” at this URL: http://www.desertnews.com/news/article_d595dbd6-925c-11e2-bc3e-0019bb2963f4.html/ ) for the Grand Jury report from March 2013, “Mojave Desert News” Article the headline reads “Grand Jury Hails RCSD”]) what a difference between the 2 reports. I have included the 2012-2013 Grand Jury Report in the references section, it is Reference # 3.

With that said, I believe the reason the Grand Jury never mentioned the Dias before is because there were never any complaints lodged against previous boards for the unscrupulous practice of board members whispering amongst themselves.

Specifically, the second part of the finding calls out the current board members for “whispering amongst each other”. This is a HUGE NO-NO in a public meeting and as the Kern County Grand Jury found, “inappropriate”, Board members are not supposed to have any secret conversations or whispers among themselves or any type of silent communication, such a passing notes to one another. The very foundation of a public meeting is the fact that it is public, there is a recorder or secretary compiling the minutes of every meetings and ultimately (as I have discussed in a previous section) these minutes need to be able to stand on their own as an accurate representation of what took place in the meeting. The Board members know this! So to act in this manner is clearly an effort to avoid being document in whatever they were whispering about. I realize that we live fairly close to Hollywood and this behavior is straight out of a Hollywood production, in real-life, it’s improper and unprofessional. The Brown Act was written for a reason…that reason being to charge public “elected” officials to do everything in open session so everyone can hear the ideas, arguments, pleadings, questions, etc. so; in a spirit of transparency, the general public and the press know what is going on.

I ask you, go back a view the videos on YouTube and you will see first-hand; the 4 members Al Wallis, Ed MacKay, Olaf Landsgaard and Dennis Shingledecker have always put their heads together whispered among themselves and then pop up with one of them making a motion and a second and then taking a vote. A more senior member of board Byron Glennan never participates in this action “he knows better” in fact quite often when these whisper conventions take place and they are getting ready to vote; quite often Mr. Glennan will get the Board President’s attention and ask to make a comment before the vote is taken. For the record, Mr. Glennan’s comments are always made publicly, from a standing position.

As recent as July 28, 2015 at a Special Board Meeting of the RCSD to discuss implementation of the Landscaping and Lighting Assessment. Just prior to the meeting beginning Mr. Landsgaard was given a microphone, he looked very confused and gave a puzzled look to Mr. Glennan. Without being prompted, Mr. Glennan said, “Here take this, that way no one will accuse you of whispering.” Mr. Landsgaard, snickered and heartily agreed and accepted the microphone which let out an excruciating squeal in the hands on the freshman board member.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5-Q62lV3Sg (video from December 8, 2014)

====================== Finding # 10 states: “Directors were difficult to see and comments were difficult to hear due to members being seated behind a dais which had an unusually high front. Whispered conversations between Directors were inappropriate.”

The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 10: “The Board partially disagrees with this finding. The Board agrees that upgrades to the dais and sound system would be beneficial, however the Board disagrees that directors were difficult to see and comments were difficult to hear. The Board agrees that whispered conversations, if any, between directors are inappropriate.”

 

To read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: Finding 11 – “No Parliamentarianism”

Finding 11 – “No Parliamentarianism”

Finding # 11: Action item votes did not follow proper parliamentary procedure.

Building upon the amateurish behavior outlined in the previous finding, we continue the exploration into proper conduct while sitting in the seat of official power.

When I use the word amateurish, I really performed a disservice to anyone who has ever done something the first time … in an amateur kind of way.

Therefore, I apologize to Dennis Shingledecker for throwing him in the mix. Dennis, is actually the only member of the trio who has no previous “parliamentary experience”. Unfortunately for Dennis, he is surrounded by seasoned politicians who have lately become better known for their disdain for the rule of order and common decency in the public interactions from the dais. Ed MacKay has been on the RCSD board previously (for 8 years in the 1990s) and Olaf Landsgaard served on the school board and on the Rosamond Municipal Advisory Board for a combined 7 years; therefore, I contend that this finding highlights their contempt for the rules.

What do rules for parliamentary procedure do for us?

To which rules am I referring? In this case, Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised, 11th edition.

“The application of parliamentary law is the best method yet devised to enable assemblies of any size, with due regard for every member’s opinion, to arrive at the general will on the maximum number of questions of varying complexity in a minimum amount of time and under all kinds of internal climate ranging from total harmony to hardened or impassioned division of opinion. (Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised)”

“Roberts Rules” covers every aspect of parliamentary functions. Let’s briefly look at how motions are to be seconded. When “Seconding Motions. As a general rule, with the exceptions given below, every motion should be seconded. This is to prevent time being consumed in considering a question that only one person favors, and consequently little attention is paid to it in routine motions. When the chair is certain the motion meets with general favor, and yet members are slow about seconding it, he may proceed without waiting for a second. Yet, any one may make a point of order that the motion has not been seconded, and then the chair is obliged to proceed formally and call for a second.

The preferred method is when a motion is not at once seconded, is for the chair to ask, “Is the motion seconded?” In a very large hall the chair should repeat the motion before calling for a second in order that all may hear. After a motion has been made no other motion is in order until the chair has stated the question on this motion, or has declared, after a reasonable opportunity has been given for a second, that the motion has not been seconded, or has ruled it out of order.

Except in very small assemblies the chair cannot assume that members know what the motion is and that it has not been seconded, unless he states the facts. A motion is seconded by a member’s saying “I second the motion,” or “I second it,” which he does without obtaining the floor, and in small assemblies without rising.”

Here’s how it typically goes at a Rosamond Community Services District Board Meeting, when an item is up Ed will look at Olaf and ask, “do you want to make a motion?”, and then say to Dennis or Al “are you going to second that?” So in effect ignoring the stated rule above and essentially placing words into each other’s mouths sometimes.

I realize this seems petty, evidently the grand jury didn’t think so. It’s a finding, that’s why we are talking about it.

While Roberts doesn’t really address recusal of one’s self from voting, it does state “It is a general rule that no one can vote on a question in which he has a direct personal or pecuniary interest.” Roberts also goes on to state, “A sense of delicacy usually prevents a member from exercising this right of voting in matters affecting himself except where his vote might affect the result.”

In actuality, this places the responsibility to recuse one’s self at the internal moral compass held by the person who should take the recusal action. In this case, I am unaware of any instance of any member of this group ever exercising their moral compass in the board room. Now for an example of the Board ignoring the parliamentary procedures.

Background: In a meeting on December 8, 2014, John Gibson was fired when the meeting was called to order. Mr. Perez was in the conference room, Mr. Glennan stood up and declared that meeting was illegal and left the Dias and sat with the audience. Mr. Wallis then got up and joined him in the audience leaving the three new board members up there alone. Mr. Landsgaard gave detailed instructions about John Gibson and at Olaf’s direction, the other rookie members, voted to fire him.

The event: On December 10, 2014 there were two agendas, the one they wrote on Sunday, December 7, 2014 and the official one posted by the RCSD on Thursday, December 4th. It was during this meeting that there was more discussion concerning Attorney, John Gibson and the status of General Manager, Steve Perez. At this meeting Mr. Landsgaard, made all of the comments he wanted to make and then (at the advice of his well-paid, attorney, he left the room). His attorney, Alison Burns, was in the audience on both days at the invitation of the Mr. Landsgaard; even though she had not yet been retained as legal counsel; she was giving legal advice from the audience on the 8th. This was the very meeting that she gave her opinion that the meeting was “NOT illegal”.

Furthermore, on December 10, 2014 she gave an opinion on the two agendas and she advised Olaf to “recuse himself”, which he did; but not before rendering his opinion and motion recommendations to the remaining members of the trio and Mr. Wallis. The in turn voted exactly as instructed by Mr. Landsgaard.

From what you have read; if you have come to the inquiring conclusion of, “How can you screw up something as simple as Roberts Rules of Order…what else remains?”

For more information on Roberts Rules of Order, here’s a link: http://www.rulesonline.com/

====================== Finding # 11 states: “Action item votes did not follow proper parliamentary procedure.”

The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 11: “The Board is without sufficient information by which to ascertain the action items to which the Report refers and, on that basis, disagrees with this finding. The Board notes that the Report is unclear as to the date, time and participants relating to the alleged improper parliamentary procedure. The Board notes that on June 4, 2015 all directors participated in a parliamentary procedure course.”

 

To read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: Finding 12 – “Distract and Disenfranchise”

Finding 12 – “Distract and Disenfranchise”

Finding # 12: During public comment, Directors extended meeting length by responding to several comments.

Background: Every Rosamond Community Services District meeting begins with the following instructions to the public.

“Item 2: Public Comments. At this time any person may address the board on any subject within the district’s jurisdiction which is not on the agenda. However, any non-agenda matter will be referred to staff for a report and or action at a subsequent board meeting and no action can be taken on any subject item discussed unless the action has been authorized under section 54954.2(b) of the government code. Any person may also address the board on any agenda matter; as the matter is discussed prior to board consideration and action. Speakers are requested to limit comments to 5 minutes. Would anyone like to address the board at this time?”

These are great rules for the public to follow and it allows for a smooth flow of topics…until emotional board responses and board member’s personal agendas take over.

Keeping with the theme of “doing their own thing” (See previous section for Finding # 2), the same instructions are read at every meeting, but Ed, Olaf, and Dennis are never quite able to apply the rules to themselves. Perhaps at the next meeting, someone should stand up, set a timer for 5 minutes and read the following statement and then proceed to use the entire 5 minutes “to speak on any subject within the district’s jurisdiction which is not on the agenda.” Then repeat the process for each agenda item.

“Item 2a: Response to Item 2 Board Member conduct during public comments. In recognition of authorization under section 54952.2(b) I will emphasize the requirement under section 54952.2(c) the legislative body of a local agency shall not prohibit public criticism of the policies, procedures, programs, or services of the agency, or of the acts or omissions of the legislative body. Nothing in this subdivision shall confer any privilege or protection for expression beyond that otherwise provided by law. That said, at this time, while any person in attendance chooses to address the board, it is requested that the board members remain silent, pay attention to what is being said and treat the general public with the proper respect and dignity that shall draw great praise upon this board. Any violation of this courtesy shall be perceived as a violation of the Brown Act, Section 54952.2 (c) and shall be duly noted. So says one, so say we all!”

According to protocol described in the Brown Act, the role of the Board is listening to; but not entering into discussions with members of the public when matters are presented.

Primarily, this is due to the fact that the public members aren’t speaking agenda matters; therefore the Board would be violating established customary practices. During the presentation of non-agenda matters, the board may ask questions for clarification.

Actions generated from the presentation of non-agenda matters, are limited to 1) directing board staff to follow up on the matter; or 2) placing the matter on a future agenda, so it can be discussed in detail on the public record at a later date. According to the Kern County Grand Jury’s finding, the RCSD board was found to have engaged in discussion; to include “back and forth banter” with the public during the presentation of non-agenda matters.

This practice, not only takes away from the five-minute time limit of the person making the presentation, but also allows the Board members to interrupt and distract anyone presenting matters with which any of the Board members do not agree.

The RCSD Board has also attempted to (wrongfully) limit discussion on agenda matters to five minutes.

For the most part, the public at large, doesn’t realize that the five-minute limitation on addressing the Board doesn’t apply to agenda matters. In several cases, members of the public were frustrated by the Board President’s efforts to impose a false restraint upon public opinion; in one specific instance, outlined by the grand jury, this “banter” has unnecessarily extended the duration of board meetings.

From a public perspective, I can also see this practice having a negative result on public attendance to meetings that go on endlessly, never quite seeming to accomplish anything.

Recently, a long-term unnamed resident wondered out loud at a meeting, “Why do I waste my time coming to these meetings? They do not listen to us, we can’t speak our peace! I am out, I am never coming back to one of these meetings.”

The confrontational atmosphere created by the MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker is a stark departure from the practices of past boards. In the years prior to 2015, previous boards understood that the Brown Act discourages placing time limits on people presenting matters and should only be used under certain circumstances.

A common practice of former boards was to read the statute instructions. They would also point out that the five-minute time limit was for non-agenda items. If people were specifically in attendance because of an item on the agenda they were asked to hold their comments until the proper time at which the agenda item was going to be discussed. They would then be given all the time they needed to present their matters; freely, openly and without added consternation from the dissenting Board members.

What happened to the good old days?

====================== Finding # 12 states: “During public comment, Directors extended meeting length by responding to several comments.”

The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 12: “The Board is without sufficient information by which to ascertain the particular public comment period to which the Report refers and, on that basis, disagrees with this finding. The Board notes that on June 4, 2015 all directors participated in a parliamentary procedure course.”

 

To read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: Finding 13 – “Street Lights: History, Economics, and Disenfranchisement”

Finding 13 – “Street Lights: History, Economics, and Disenfranchisement”

Finding # 13: The 45 year-old rate of $1 per month is insufficient to cover lighting costs and maintain a reserve.

Before I discuss this hotly contested subject, I want to take a couple of moments to introduce you to the defining issue that motivated MacKay, Landsgaard and Shingledecker to form a “Votes for us, we will be a majority” ticket. To fully appreciate this issue, we must examine the past.

The Rosamond Community Services District (RCSD) was formed in 1966. The original services provided or managed by the RCSD included Water, Sewer and Streetlights.

I can see water and sewer being closely related, but the obvious question is, “Why streetlights?”

The streetlights and associated equipment all belong to Edison and the RCSD somehow was the focal point for collecting payment from the community and getting it to Edison. In other words, RCSD was and still is responsible for paying the electric bill generated by street lighting to Edison. When this relationship first came about, each RSCD account holder incurred a $1.00 charge on their monthly water bill to pay for streetlights.

Put the history lesson on hold a moment; let’s talk economics!

According to the “Measuring Worth” website; in 2014, the relative value of $1.00 from 1966 ranges from $5.63 to $21.40.

A simple Purchasing Power Calculator would say the relative value is $7.29. This answer is obtained by multiplying $1 by the percentage increase in the consumer price index from 1966 to 2014.

While, straightforward, this may not be the best answer.

The best measure of the relative value over time depends on if you are interested in comparing the cost or value of a Commodity, Income or Wealth, or a Project. For more discussion on how to pick the best measure, read the essay “Explaining the Measures of Worth” located at http://www.measuringworth.com/explaining_measures_of_worth.php

Since I am talking about the value of a dollar as it concerns the average household’s cash flow, I am going to skip over commodities and projects and go straight for the wallet!

If you want to compare the value of a $1.00 Income or Wealth, consider economic power: that is the value of that income or wealth (in 2014 terms) is $21.40!

Now, please do not take me wrong and please do not read ahead. I am not about to tell you that each household in Rosamond should be paying $21.40 each month to maintain street lighting.

Now back to the history lesson.

That is to say, given one dollar in 1966 and going out and spending it in 1966, a buyer could purchase the equivalent on $21.40 worth of goods in terms of TODAY’s dollar.

This simple economics lesson is the exact reason that $1.00 charged to each RCSD account in 1966 was more than sufficient to cover the cost of street lighting in Rosamond. Not only was it more than enough to pay the Edison bill; it actually built up a considerable reserve over the years.

But over time, as with almost everything, the cost of electricity increased and the $1.00 per month fee was not enough to pay the entire bill.

Having a reserve that had built up over the years, various RCSD Boards began eating into the reserve to offset the deficit.

In 1996 the voters in California adopted Proposition 218. (More info on Prop 218 can be found here: http://www.lao.ca.gov/1996/120196_prop_218/understanding_prop218_1296.html )

If after, checking that website, you are not familiar with Prop 218; in a nutshell Prop 218 states, “All existing tax or fee increases or new tax or fee implementation must have approval of the voters.” It’s not a simple majority vote either; Prop 218 requires that a tax or fee increase must meet a two-thirds approval requirement on a general ballot action.

Around the year 2000, RCSD realized that eventually the $1.00 per month would have to be raised; but because Prop 218 required such a high majority “yes” percentage and the overall unpopularity associated with even presenting an increase proposal, the RCSD felt that a voter-approved increase was simply not going to happen; the vote never took place.

In 2005, Kern County adopted an ordinance to create Landscaping & Lighting Assessment Districts (LLAD) requiring all new construction to be placed into a LLAD to pay for “street lighting, greenbelts, or other public medians”. More info on “Assessment Districts” can be found here: http://www.californiataxdata.com/pdf/AssessmentDistrict.pdf . LLAD2 was formed and included the majority of Rosamond residents. Streetlight fees were assessed on new houses being built after 2005. LLAD2 did not include existing homes built prior to 2005.

I do realize that history lesson was painful, but to fully understand the issue one must understand the past and its impact upon our current situation.

Along with the establishment of the LLAD2 in 2005, came a rate study. To better “characterize” the issues at hand and to determine the required amount that each RCSD account should be billed. This study soon determined that the reserves in the street lighting fund would eventually be depleted. Therefore, it was decided to conduct a rate study to bring in all of the existing homes and buildings built prior to 2005 into LLAD2.

Simply stated, the amount of money required to pay the electric bills for street lights was more than the amount of money coming in each month.

Once the rate study was completed the pre-existing homes and buildings built prior to 2005 were divided into zones with the “fair share” costs being determined by the number of street lights in each zone. Before I examine the decision making processes of the current RCSD Board, let’s consider a few facts.

1) Because of its “fixed nature” and the origins of its establishment; the $1.00 per month “cannot be increased”.

2) Any increase in the street lighting fee must be assessed and placed on the property tax.

3) Every household desiring street lighting, must be included in LLAD2.

4) A Kern County Ordinance dictates that street lights will be assessed on individual property owners.

5) Street light fees will be required to go through the 218 process. (A yes vote must meet a two-thirds approval requirement on a general ballot.)

Experts from several areas presented these facts, along with supporting comments to (then candidates) MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker. Choosing to ignore these facts, the trio campaigned relentlessly throughout the 2014 campaign and kept insisting that the $1.00 monthly fee was enough to pay the electric bill and if more money was needed then (if elected) they would simply double the $1.00 fee and the problem would be solved.

When I compared the facts, to the logic supporting their decision making; I instantly wonder how these Ed, Olaf, and Dennis would end world hunger.

When confronted with the option for a modification to the existing LLAD2, they campaigned against the lighting districts saying they were not necessary, that they would keep the street lights on making lots of campaign promises. The vast majority of which, have remained unfulfilled.

Even more facts:

1) On December 14, 2014; a legal and binding election was held by mail-in ballots with 16 zones voting NOT TO join the LLAD2 and therefore electing to have their street lights turned off and not be assessed a street lighting fee.

2) The outcome of the vote for all zones, was determined by a long-held American tradition of majority rules (a simple majority).

3) MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker did not like the outcome of the election, insisting that the street light issue should not be decided by 1 vote (a simple majority). They felt that the public was not informed and because of the low voter turnout that the election should not count and another election should take place and try for more favorable results. (We live in America? Right? Our democratic system does not work this way… I guess, when you are following the lead of Olaf… there is always a new tradition. (See the Finding # 2).

4) Proposition 218 requires that before a Prop 218-based vote is held, one public hearing is required. (The three of them, insisted on holding multiples public meetings (oh, that’s right… they get pair $147.00 per meeting… see the section on Finding # 4) The MacKay-led RCSD Board held seven public meetings, in effect seeking to impact the outcome of such a vote in their favor, rather than to let the general public decide own their own. I didn’t even mention the fact that they wasted a lot of money! (For the record, the Board members are allowed to claim reimbursement for “up to” six meeting days per month.  Multiple meetings occurring within a 24 hour period count as a single meeting.)

5) On March 11, 2015 the majority of the Board voted to borrow $50,000 from the restricted water & sewer funds to pay for street lights in the 16 zones that voted by majority vote to not pay for street light and have them turned off. (So why did we hold a vote?)

6) This action was illegal because money cannot be borrowed from restricted funds without a plan to pay the money back. Resolution 2015-5 which was passed on April 8, 2015 contains no payback plan in the resolution. When pressed on the issue, the newly seated Board members indicated that they would pay back the $50,000 from the discretionary funds on July 1, 2015. (So let me get this right, they borrowed money from a restricted fund to disenfranchise voters and the “after the fact” payback plan is to borrow more money from a fund that is earmarked to pay back $2,000,000 in loans made to Parks and Recreation, what did I just read?) This does raise a question…since the Rosamond Community Services District Board voted to disassociate the RCSD from the Rosamond Community Foundation, they eliminated part of the repayment plan for parks. Do they not understand the Rosamond Community Foundation was created as a part of the plan to pay back borrowed money?

7) RSCD Board Members disenfranchised voters by ignoring an election that was held and imposed their will on the people rather than respect the will of the people.

8) Borrowing the $50,000 was a gift of public funds because it was used to pay for street lights with no obligation from the beneficiaries of the $50,000 to pay it back and because of this loan, those who voted to join LLAD2 were now being forced to subsidize those who are not paying because they voted to not join LLAD2 and elected to have their street lights turned off.

In closing, The Kern County Grand Jury obviously felt compelled to inform the RCSD Board members of the obvious. This isn’t the first time that these three have heard this observation; maybe, just maybe… since this issue is highlighted as a grand jury finding, MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker will feel compelled to address the issue.

====================== Finding # 13 states: “The 45 year-old rate of $1 per month is insufficient to cover lighting costs and maintain a reserve.”

The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 13: “The Board partially disagrees with this finding. The Board disagrees that the $1 per month rate is 45 – years old and instead asserts that the rate is 30 years old.”

 

To read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: Finding 14 – “Let’s Talk Sewer”

Finding 14 – “Let’s Talk Sewer”

Finding # 14: The original sewer rate study did not take into account unoccupied residences.

This is the 14th Grand Jury Finding against the “Ed” MacKay-led Rosamond Community Services district. When presented as a single finding, it appears quite benign; however, when discussed alongside Findings # 15 thru 18, one actually begins to internalize questions on a path toward enlightenment.

In June 2015, the Kern County Grand Jury highlighted something that has origins back to 2009. So let’s start when the original rate study was done that was completed in 2009.

This Kern County Grand Jury finding highlights the fact unoccupied residences were not included the study. Unfortunately, there is no record that will show specific reasoning for the matter in which the 2009 Sewer rate study was completed. Several attempts to locate anyone who can explain this oversight have failed; the oversight resulted in reduced sewer-rate based revenue for the RCSD. A result of the failure to address unoccupied residences also limited data analysis pertaining to unoccupied residences that later became occupied. I am not a mind reader, nor have I ever been an RCSD board member, therefore I can only imagine as to why the RCSD Board of 2008-09 did not consider vacant properties and the future impact in the form of lost revenue as part of the study.

The RCSD Board members in 2009 (responsible for the 2009 Sewer Study) consisted of: Mr. Byron Glennan, Ms. Kathleen Spoor, Mr. Robert Scherer, Mr. Daniel Landsgaard and Ms. Kim Lord. Of that group, only Mr. Glennan remains a board member.

I do see a familiar surname in that group from 2009: Landsgaard. In the spirit of the “smoking gun” I suspect that the answer falls squarely in the lap of the Landsgaard Family.

First, I will provide a little background concerning the sewer aspect of public works and utilities.

Unlike water, gas or electric service, a family is not billed based upon consumption. Consumers pay for the amount that they use, in addition to the cost of the product consumed has been integrated into the price for the cost of maintenance, equipment upgrades, replacement, and other hidden operating expenses.

A waste water (or sewer system) is very different as it does not deliver a product to a home, it is a receiving system that is in use 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and even though a dwelling might not use the system for a prolonged period of time due to work requirements, family vacations or being vacant (either on or off the housing market) the base cost is not for how much you use the system, but rather for having access to the system whenever you need it.

The sewer system has to be maintained, cleaned, upgraded and expanded; all of which require revenue (I will speak directly to the economic impact later in this section).

It can be said that sewer is a direct “output” (pun intended) of the water and other consumables that people routinely need to survive. That said, how exactly should a service provider calculate sewer rates?

In my research, I examined three cities. 1) Tallahassee, Florida 2) Davis, California and 3) Rosamond.

The city of Tallahassee, Florida encourages people to limit water use in the winter to lower sewer cost! This is because, each year, the city calculates residential sewer charges based upon residential water billing cycles during the four winter months of December through March. Because the city bills customer after they use water, which means residents need to watch their water usage from November through February.

The “upper limit” sewer charge, which is the highest amount charged in any month during the following 12 months, is established by using the second highest water consumption billed during those four winter months. Tallahassee conducts a sewer rate survey EVERY YEAR to account for buildings that were empty and became occupied over the previous year.

Why the four winter months? Typically, customers use large amounts of water during the hot summer months – watering lawns and gardens, taking frequent showers, washing cars, and so on. Customers usually reduce their water usage in the winter. So rather than billing based on heavy summer use, the city uses the winter months when water use should be a good deal less.

Why the second highest month? By disregarding the highest usage month in the winter, the city gives the residents a break to take into consideration unique “one time” events that would drive higher consumption rates. Thus, city uses the second highest consumption month to further ensure the lowest charge possible.

The city routinely tells its residents, “check your home now for water leaks, especially in sinks, inside and outside faucets, and toilets. Run full loads in the dishwasher and use appropriate load settings for your washing machine. It’s also a good idea to review how your family uses water because the more water you use this winter, the higher your sewer bill will be.”

Now Tallahassee, Florida sounds like a city focused on its citizens.

The city of Davis, California uses an approach similar to that of Tallahassee, In that they rely upon a base calculation that considers; 1) average water use in the winter months 2) the type of building being serviced or User Class 3) type of business or number of occupants in the building or Customer Category and they apply a “hundred cubic feet” or CCF count to determine sewer rates.

I could find no information concerning how often the city of Davis, California actually performs the sewer rate survey (I suspect as many municipalities in California, they do it on a five-year basis).

So, let’s bring it home to Rosamond!

As you read over the next few paragraphs, consider this. Since virtually every property in the district has access to water and sewer services, imagine the power that any one person could have if they sat on the governing body responsible for setting and adjusting rate fees, establishing guidance policies affecting the entire Rosamond community (to include present residents and those yet to come).

The last sewer rate survey was conducted in 2009. Prior to 2009, RCSD had not incurred a rate increase since Fiscal Year 2003‐04. During the five years from 2004 and 2009 (according to the engineer’s report), operating costs increased such that revenue generated did not cover operating costs. Reserve funds were used to make up the short fall of revenue. In the eyes of the engineer, it became necessary to increase the revenue to cover the daily operating and maintenance costs, to begin funding a replacement program and to restore (depleted) revenue reserves.

In order to address the revenue shortfall, RCSD determined to undertake a rate study to analyze the revenue requirements of RCSD’s water operations. The objective of the study was to develop sufficient stable revenues to properly operate and maintain the water system, and to ensure a safe and reliable supply to accommodate current and future customers.

The art of rate design involves developing rates that are balanced between potentially conflicting objectives, the desires of the users and requirements of the law, in a manner that suits a particular community. The unique nature of a community and its customers must be considered when selecting a rate structure.

Oh well, those were pretty much words from 2009 and they sound eerily familiar five years later.

Today’s Impact:

Let’s take a closer look at exactly what came out of the Sewer Rate Survey of 2009. Considering long-term impact, the Sewer Rate Survey of 2009 locked in annual increases EVERY YEAR for five YEARS.

That said, there has been no consideration for properties that were empty in 2009 and have had occupants in them since. By locking in the rates for five years, the RCSD was able to avoid the “work” of performing a Sewer Rate Survey every year. The negative impact of not performing a Sewer Rate Survey each year is the fact that residents miss out on the opportunity to have rates reduced as the course of water saving technologies that have been developed over that five years.

The Background:

In doing research for this section, I ran across a Public Hearing Notice release by the RCSD in 2009, explaining the propose rate plan. Here goes, it states:

“Since the District does not measure Individual sewer users’ discharge, an indirect method has been adopted by the industry.

For all Customers, RCSD will use the monthly water used during the months of December through March of the prior fiscal year. The District will identify the two lowest months of water usage and average those two months. Because these months are normally the wettest months for the region and there generally is less outdoor irrigation, they are the best reflection of the amount of water being returned to the sewer by Customers.

The standard unit of measure pertaining to water consumption and sewer discharge is the “Hundred Cubic Feet (HCF)” measure; HCF equals 100 cubic feet which is equivalent to 748 gallons.

The HCF Charge component of the rate structure will then be determined on the basis of each Individual Customer’s water usage. For determining the HCF Charge for Residential Customers, water usage will be capped at a monthly maximum of 20 HCF (14,960 gallons).

The cap on maximum water usage recognizes that there may be some irrigation water used during the months of December through March which is not returned to the sewer. Water separately metered, used for irrigation, and not discharged into the sewer will not be included in the determination of the rate to be imposed for the HCF Charge for any customer.

There is no cap on water usage for determining the HCF Charge for Commercial Customers I and Commercial Customers II. The sewer service fees for Residential Customers and Commercial Customers I will be calculated as follows:

Base Charge times each residential unit or commercial unit for a parcel of property (a residential unit includes, but is not limited to, a single-family residence, an apartment within a master metered apartment building, a mobile home within a master metered mobile home park, and a condominium within a master metered condominium complex; a commercial unit Includes, but is not limited to, a commercial business within a master metered business park or complex, such as a strip mall);

Plus an HCF Charge calculated by dividing the monthly water usage by the number of units; and

Multiply the HCF water usage times the HCF water usage per residential unit for each parcel of property (not to exceed 20 HCF per unit for Residential Customers).”

The public notice, continues, “Commercial Customers II discharge stronger waste. In order to account for the additional costs of treating their wastewater, the rates for the HCF Charge for Commercial Customers II will be four times the rates charged to Residential and Commercial I Customers. The HCF Charge will be charged on all water discharged to the sewer based on the monthly metered water usage. Water separately metered, used for irrigation, and not discharged into the sewer will not be included in the determination of the rate to be imposed for the HCF Charge for Commercial Customers.”

In summary and in a feeble attempt to justify the FIVE –YEAR approach to residents, here’s the story they told residents in 2009!

“To mitigate the impact of rate increases for sewer customers, the rate increases will be phased in over a five-year period. The proposed rates will be in effect beginning on October 1, 2009, and will be increased each October 1st thereafter through October 1, 2013. The table below reflects the proposed rates for the Base Charge and the HCF Charge of the sewer service fees for residential and commercial customers for the next five years.”

Base Charges
(All Customers)
  HCF Charges (Residential)   HCF Charges (Commercial)
OCT 09 $29.33 OCT 09 $0.11 OCT 09 $0.44
OCT 10 $29.33 OCT 10 $0.11 OCT 10 $0.44
OCT 11 $34.21 OCT 11 $0.12 OCT 11 $0.48
OCT 12 $36.97 OCT 12 $0.12 OCT 12 $0.48
OCT 13 $39.80 OCT 13 $0.13 OCT 13 $0.52

Here are the facts:

This past spring, the RCSD decided to implement Resolution 2015-3 aimed at removing the sewer fee from the property tax and placing it back onto monthly water bills.

1) When the rate study was completed in 2009 setting the current sewer rate it was based upon all dwellings connected to the system paying the rate 12 months a year.

2) With the sewer rates placed on the monthly water bill that sewer rate will only be paid as long as that dwelling is getting a monthly water bill.

3) If that dwelling or rental unit is vacant any time during the year than the sewer rates are reduced for every month that this occurs.

4) It is estimated the empty dwellings or rental units are costing the RCSD approximately $150,000 in lost revenue every year.

5) By having the sewer fees on the property tax it ensures that the RCSD will collect all of the revenue necessary to maintain, upgrade, expand and replace the sewer system.

6) If Rosamond goes back to having the sewer fee placed on the water bill than the RCSD will start losing at least $150,000 every year. The long-term unintended affect is that over-time sewer rates rise (as operating costs outstretch RCSD coffers) and homeowners, will end up paying every month to subsidize those who enjoy the income of rental units but no longer have the responsibility to contribute to RCSD when rental units sit empty.

So, at the end of the day, who benefits from the current Sewer Rate being locked in and not considering vacant housed and buildings? The people who benefit most are those who own a lot of rental properties or houses. Going back to the beginning of this Finding, I didn’t have to look very hard for a very evident beneficiary.

You see, there was a member of the Landsgaard family on the RCSD in 2009.

I contend to you (it is my opinion) that the Landsgaard clan is the number one beneficiary of this issue for which Daniel Landsgaard fought tooth and nail to have implemented back in 2009.

In 2009, the argument was for a locked in rate.

The argument today is to remove the Sewer charges from the property taxes and have each resident pay the fees directly to RCSD. By taking this action, Mr. Landsgaard and his cronies on the RCSD Board have managed to provide a windfall in avoided taxes and fees to Kern County and as previously mentioned, this decision has cost RCSD over $150,000 each year since 2004 in lost revenue due to empty houses not being subject to the assessment.

By now, I am sure there are questions running through your mind. I will now introduce a series of seventeen questions. I refer to them as, “Internalized Questions”. These are questions that you probably already know the answer to, but are actually waiting on some else to ask. Therefore, I will ask them for you.

Internalized Question # 1:

The following question isn’t an unfounded question based on a rhetoric. It’s a question that begs for an answer and that each of us should ask Mr. Landsgaard.

Mr. Landsgaard, “How many rental units do you, your family members, family trusts, friends, and business associates have in the community of Rosamond that will benefit financially from by removing these sewer liabilities from your property taxes and placing them squarely upon the shoulders of your renters, leasing agents and other tax payers?” 

 

Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.

In performing a basic internet search, I was able to find the “unofficial” answer to my question. I found 75 properties accounting for more than 221 acres of land within the Rosamond Community Services District boundaries (see images 11 – 14, below) associated with the Landsgaard family name, trusts, friends, and business associates (as listed on the Kern County tax rolls).  This information is sourced from public record data via http://www.kerndata.com/

I am sure there are more, I just have not had the time nor resources to complete the search; as with each turn, I discovered no less than 5 corporations linked to the Landsgaard family name: They are: 1) Mouth of Hidden Valley, LLC., 2) Aero Sports Skypark Corp., 3) Avico Inc., 4) Karl’s Hardware Inc., and 5) Rosamond Prop, LLC.

It is my opinion that the actions of the RCSD Board have benefitted a handful of powerful people in very influential positions. In effect, RCSD has created a system the subsidizes those (business people) who have rental units by forcing homeowners and other community entities into pay their share, in addition to, offsetting the net loss of over $150,000 per year in uncollected sewer fees.

Now back to the original finding, there is a reason that the Kern County Grand Jury felt in necessary to highlight the fact that the “original sewer rate study did not take into account unoccupied residences” and it is my opinion that those in power are reluctant to cut the purse strings and do the right thing for the community.

Image 11

Image 11

Image 12

Image 12

Image 13

Image 13

Image 14

Image 14

Image 11 - 14: List of 77 properties (221 acres of land) associated with the Landsgaard family name, trusts, friends, and business associates. All listed on the Kern County tax rolls within RCSD boundaries.

====================== Finding # 14 states: “The original sewer rate study did not take into account unoccupied residences.”

The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 14: “The Board agrees with this finding.”

 

To read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: Finding 15 – “Sewer and Lawyers”

Finding 15 – “Sewer and Lawyers”

 

Finding # 15: A previous Board, upon legal advice, chose to place sewer fees on the tax roll to capture direct and indirect operating costs.

I want to expand on the original words concerning this finding as spelled out in the Kern County Grand Jury Report of June 2015, “A previous Board, upon legal advice, chose to place sewer fees on the tax roll to capture direct and indirect operating costs.

Obviously, the Kern County Grand Jury considered evidence that led them to this conclusion.

Internalized Question # 2:

I wonder, “Which lawyer suggested placing sewer fees on the tax rolls in the first place?” Before continuing, I highly suggest that you read Finding # 14, I think it will better prepare you for the conclusion you are about to come to?

Yes, this is true and it is also following precedent, all of Los Angeles County properties pay their sewer fees on the property tax and it is considered common practice with most jurisdictions and this action is also authorized by the California Health Code 5473.1, sewers are different from water, electricity, gas where you are paying for a service and a system and not a product.

Continuing from the discussion in Finding # 14, I prefer to call Finding # 15, “The Smoking Gun”, as Rosamond Community Service District Board Member Olaf Landsgaard and other rental property owners screamed loud and often about placing the sewer fee on the property tax because this action would make them the property owners responsible for the sewer fee regardless if their rental properties are rented out or are vacant, Mr. Landsgaard was heard to ask quite often, “If the house is empty then the sewer is not being used so why should land lords be made to pay for something they are not using?”

To characterize the issue in this manner really doesn’t consider all of the infrastructure involved in sewage disposal and quite literally demonstrates a very simple line of thought (perhaps, simple logic for a simple mind).

As for over simplifying things… just remember, if you can get a lawyer to recommend it… he becomes the fall guy and all matters related to the decision fall under “attorney – client” privilege. In other words, when answering an uncomfortable question, it’s always easier to say, “Based upon my lawyer’s advice….”

Having provided substantial background information, I will introduce an aspect I didn’t mention in Finding # 14, sewer systems are gravity flow systems and are designed for the estimated flow based on how many connections each particular trunk line supports. When a sewer system is designed, the engineers look at current demand and also estimate future growth. It is also preferred and much less expensive to design a gravity–flow system, rather than having to rely upon expensive pumps to maintain a gravity “simulated” flow. Sewer system operates best when there is a constant flow of about a one-third of a pipe, this allows for waste as it is deposited into the system to be carried away to the sewage treatment plant. This is why one street may have a 10” line and the next street over might be a 12” line; line diameter is all based upon the hydraulic-flow aspects of raw sewage.

Almost always, lines are installed with projected flow rates in mind.

Similar to denying that a tree falling in the woods makes no noise if no one is there to hear it, Mr. Landsgaard has publicly conjectured that an empty residence doesn’t place a demand upon the existing sewer system and he is completely wrong when expounding this theory of “no use equals no expense”. The plain and simple truth is just the opposite of the “Landsgaard Theorem” in fact empty houses induce more stress upon the sewer system than occupied homes, let me provide a realistic example:

Concerning optimum flow designs; when houses connected to a sewer system are using the system on a regular basis…normal flow exists…in this desired state…say a street has 30 homes on a trunk line and the pipe is designed to run at one-third full and you have seven rentals on this line and if all the rentals are sitting empty then what happens to the flow?

Flow decreases, then deposits are not swept away as designed and “backups begin to develop”. Backups result in odors and can contribute to partial or full blockages causing a sewage overflow (raw sewage is very bad for public health and safety).

You should also know the besides raw human waste, there is also residual grease and cooking fats that are generated as we prepare meals and wash dishes.

The number one contributors to clogged sewer lines are Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG). Additionally, FOG, as it is referred by the waste management industry is (at a minimum) are consider flow reducers. FOG components in wastewater are among the more stable of the organic compounds and are not easily decomposed by bacteria so these fats coat, congeal, and accumulate on pipes, pumps, equipment and sometimes obstruct lines. As FOG builds up in the system, preventative maintenance is required to clean out the backups. All sewer lines are on a scheduled cleaning cycle based on flow amounts (usually on an annual basis). Therefore, empty houses can result in sewer lines needing to be cleaned more frequently which, in turn, raise sewer fees.

Clearly, one can see the fallacy in Mr. Landsgaard’s argument.

This faulty logic was not lost on RCSD General Manager Steve Perez, who observed that when the sewer rate study was completed, it based fees on ALL properties connected to the system. Mr. Perez compared total amount of revenue actually coming into the RCSD to what SHOULD have been coming in (based upon total number of connections) and he identified an annual shortfall of approximately $150,000. This amount translates into no less than 312 connections during any given month sitting empty, not paying a sewer fee. Owning a rental property is a business and as a business, the business owners should pay their obligations and not have everyday homeowners subsidizing businesses by picking up part of the tab.

At the current rate of revenue ($150,000 every year) then it will not be long before the sewer rate has to be raised prematurely to make up for the short fall in revenue. (If you need a reminder), refer to Finding # 14 at the justification given in 2009 for having to increase rates.

I know, you internalize the answer to my question of, “I wonder, “Which lawyer suggested placing sewer fees on the tax rolls in the first place?”

Here’s the real answer: It was Mr. John Gibson who gave the advice. Mr. Landsgaard is a bit aloof, and I think not smart enough to come up with this ploy. I will further support this observation on Olaf in the discussion for Finding # 20, concerning the tiered-water rates….

====================== Finding # 15 states: “A previous Board, upon legal advice, chose to place sewer fees on the tax roll to capture direct and indirect operating costs.”

The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 15: “The Board agrees with this finding.”

 

To read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: Finding 16 and 17 – “Sewer Fees: There and Back Again”

Finding 16 and 17 – “Sewer Fees: There and Back Again”

Finding # 16: Placing sewer fees on the property tax bill increased the sewer fee collection rate and may allow parcel owners to claim a deduction on their federal income tax.

This is true. By having the sewer rate on the property tax instead of the water bill means property owners can write off the sewer fee but with it on the water bill they cannot. Additionally, billing sewer fees via the property tax means that every parcel that is connected to the sewer system will be paying their fair share.

Cut and dry, straightforward. I actually think the Kern County Grand Jury is attempting to shine light on past practices with an eye on future sewer rate surveys.

Finding # 17: The current Board voted to rescind the previous Board’s action and combine the sewer bill with the water bill.

In the spirit of keeping a campaign promise, the three of them didn’t waste any time taking care of this promise. Under the “Vote for Us, We are a majority” plan, this issue was critical to the very core of their effort. Therein lies the question.

Internalized Question # 3:

Why would any politician vote to take an action that would 1) result in the town losing valuable tax revenue, 2) end up raising rates on the very constituents that elected them?

The current board ran their election on removing the sewer fee from the property tax fulfilling a campaign promise but why was the promise made in the first place?

Time for another history lesson:

Let’s go back to March 31, 2014. This was two years prior to the vote to put the sewer fee on the property tax when it was first discussed at an RCSD Board meeting and the Board room was packed with apartment owners, landlords & motel owners (you can find the copyright protected article from “The Rosamond News” at this URL: http://aadpb.com/ros20140331week5/Cover.html ) and the related video located at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVxay-xg8Rw

The apartment owners, investors and landlords were very loud and Mr. Daniel Landsgaard was very vocal against putting the sewer fee on the property tax, as was Mr. Pan Patel owner of Devonshire Inn & Carl’s motel. Almost all of those protesting were claiming the same thing: Adoption of this plan would wipe them out, if they had to be responsible for the sewer fees. One woman present stated she was a retired school teacher and had three rental properties and if the sewer fee was put on the property tax she would lose her homes because she would not be able to pay the extra money.

Needless to say, back in 2012, all of these stories persuaded the majority of the board to not put the sewer fee on the property tax. At that time, Mr. Steve Perez was still new on the job and the board did not have the lost revenue argument before them (as Mr. Perez had not explored that aspect) at that time. It appears from face value that in 2012 the board was more focused on finding a more efficient method to collect the sewer fees.

Now let’s come forward to March, 2014 and the vote that was held to place the sewer fees on the property tax bill. The people who opposed the sewer fee on the property tax had changed their approach. Again, led by Mr. Landsgaard (a very heavily outcome impacted private citizen, businessman, lawyer, and shrewd businessman) who was claiming that the board had violated Proposition 218 by not giving the public enough notice prior to the vote. He also argued (using a scare tactic) that seniors would lose their homes because they would spend the $40 per month usually allocated for the sewer fee and not set it aside for the property tax bill whenever it would come around.

Internalized Question # 4:

How dare Landsgaard play upon the fears of our aged citizens?

 Additionally, snuggling up to selected business owners, Mr. Landsgaard and Mr. MacKay (pulled out their all-time favorite tactic) and claimed that apartment and motel owners were saying that they should not be saddled with the responsibility of paying the sewer fee on their property taxes.

Time for the facts:

 The Public was not notified: this is simply, not true. The notice was posted 72 hours prior to the meeting, it also made “The Rosamond News” in their March 24, 2014 edition (well in compliance the state laws.)

Proposition 218 was violated: This is not true sewer fees are not considered a tax or fee increase. It was simply a new way to collect the sewer fee all customers would be paying the same amount not a penny more.

The vote was illegal because the public was not given enough notice: this is untrue the public was given the 72 hour posted notice which is all that is required by law for board agendas

Mr. Landsgaard and Mr. MacKay stated seniors would lose their homes because they would not save $40 each month and seniors sometimes forget to pay their taxes: This is an absurd statement. 1) Seniors are some of the most responsible savers anywhere and to say otherwise is an insult to seniors and to say that seniors sometimes forget to pay their property tax and they will lose their homes because of an unpaid sewer bill, well the part that seniors can forget to pay their property tax might be true but if this happens they will not lose their homes because of an unpaid sewer bill; they will however, lose their homes because they failed to pay their property taxes.

Putting the sewer fee on the property tax is unfair to business owners: This is not true whether you own a motel, apartments or rental properties these are business establishments and should have no expectation to be subsidized by the rate payers of Rosamond Community Services District. The action of placing the sewer fee on the property tax now makes the property owner responsible for the sewer fee; not the person renting the property or the customer using the property.

The action taken by the board on March 26, 2014 simply closed up a loophole that was allowing landlords to pass on the $150,000 in lost revenue onto the RCSD ratepayers. Yes, this action would have cut into the profits of business owners and landlords unless they raised their rents to cover the $40 a month. They will now be responsible to pay, just like every other property owner in the district.

The fact that Mr. MacKay claimed to be so concerned for seniors is a real laugh because back in the 1980-1990’s when he was on the RCSD board, 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. When you get your next tax statement, please notice that you will find right next to your 1% property tax is the largest bill on your statement. This amount for my property is almost $400 per year and I have been paying it for almost 4 years…many other long-term residents of Rosamond have been paying that bond back for other 23 years. The fact is those assessment districts did cause people to lose their homes…many of which were especially vulnerable seniors living on fixed incomes.

Let’s wrap this up! The $40.00 homeowners currently pay each month for water and sewer fees and having it transferred to property tax accounts has no effect on the money in resident pockets as either way the fees are collected residents pay the same amount. The same cannot be said of the actions taken by Mr. MacKay when he was on the RCSD Board in the 1980-1990’s; his action negatively affected those who live on fixed incomes.

Internalized Question # 5:

I wonder, how seniors felt when Mr. MacKay in the 1980s and 90s (the same Mr. MacKay of today) voted to INCREASE THEIR PROPERTY TAX by $400 per year? His reasons for raising those property taxes $400 equates to the pot calling the kettle black, when he argues against a funding “shift” that does not affect a person’s annual income.

Overall, voters’ response to the $400 Ed MacKay-sponsored tax increase was a mutiny. The Rosamond Town Council was formed to replace the RCSD Board members at the time. Eventually the Town Council became the Rosamond Municipal Advisory Council and when Mr. MacKay’s seat came up for reelection he was ousted. A leopard can’t change its spots and neither can Ed MacKay change his “tax and spend” ideology and even though he tried several times to get back on the RCSD Board, it wasn’t until 2014 when voters’ memories had faded; he was returned to the Board and judging from his activities to date in 2015, he has not changed a bit.

 

====================== Finding # 16 states: “Placing sewer fees on the property tax bill increased the sewer fee collection rate and may allow parcel owners to claim a deduction on their federal income tax.”

The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 16: “The Board is without sufficient knowledge or information to form a belief as to the truth of this finding and on that basis disagrees wholly with this finding. Answering this finding would require the Board to improperly provide tax and/or legal advice to the District’s consumers. The Board notes that the Kern County Tax Assessor has opined that sewer fees on the tax bill may be claimed as a deduction on customers’ Federal income tax returns.

====================== Finding # 17 states: “The current Board voted to rescind the previous Board’s action and combine the sewer bill with the water bill.”

The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 17: “The Board partially disagrees with this finding. The Board does not agree with the characterization that the Board “rescinded” the previous Board’s action. Instead, the Board ordered the District to reassume responsibility for the collection of the sewer service fee.”

 

To read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: Finding 18 – “Drip…Drip…Drip, is that water or money disappearing…or both?

Finding 18 – “Drip…Drip…Drip, is that water or money disappearing…or both?

Finding # 18: Moving the sewer bill back to the water bill will decrease sewer fund revenues.

I really am getting tired of trying to explain these idiotic moves! Having read all of the previous sections, I am sure the whole picture is beginning to come into focus.

Remember, the big concern (as we have discussed) is the reason for placing sewer fees on the property tax bill was to recover lost revenue that was inadvertently not considered when the water and sewer rates were set as a result of the 2009 Water and Sewer Rate Study (see Finding # 14).

Internalized Questions # 6:

In responding to the Grand Jury Final Report, Finding # 14; the official response from RCSD Board members agreed with this finding. It only makes sense to ask, “If they agree with Finding # 14 and the previous board took action to remedy that problem, then why would you vote to rescind that action and go back to the way sewer fees were collected on the water bill?

Internalized Questions # 7:

Why would the RCSD CHOOSE to revisit losing $150,000 per year?

Internalized Questions # 8:

Why would they take the action they took without a plan to recover the lost revenue that they just created with their latest action?

Let’s cut to the chase… in 2009 when the rates were set at the current level; the plan was to have ALL connections paying every month. When a rate study is done a services district cannot just pick a number out of the air and say this is what we are going to charge. Under California state law; as an Enterprise agency, the RCSD is not allowed to make a profit. They are required to establish criteria that lead to accurate rate establishment. They must look at costs related to: service delivery, infrastructure loans, bonds, operating and maintenance requirements, chemicals, current population, future growth, and infrastructure expansion. After they finish doing all of the calculations, let’s say the amount comes to $39.70 a month; then RCSD must charge $39.70 a month. They are prohibited by California business operating rules from charging a single penny more or less. The base-rate must be established using a fact-based approach, common to many corporate board rooms involving charts, graphs, spreadsheets, facts and figures.

So which brings us back to the fact (as stated in the Finding) that the previous board voted to close a loophole in the 2009 rate study that allowed landlords to enjoy not being responsible for their sewer bills on their property. The current RCSD, led by Ed MacKay, Olaf Landsgaard, and Dennis Shingledecker aligned themselves with a special interest (their own wallets) as by reestablishing the very loophole that drained RCSD funding levels dry at the tune of $150,000 per year (is this even legal?). It must be, they have a $400,000 per year lawyer at their beck and call. In the end, it is the average RCSD rate payer who get stuck with subsidizing RCSD board members personal special interests.

Internalized Questions # 9:

As discussed in Finding # 14, “The Landsgaard Family, trusts, friends, and business associates are listed on the Kern County tax rolls associated with more than 75 properties accounting for more than 221 acres of land within the Rosamond Community Services District boundaries.” If birds of a feather flock together, I wonder; just how many properties are actually owned or controlled by the entire RCSD Board?

Internalized Questions # 10:

How long can the RCSD continue to lose $150,000 a year in lost revenue before the sewer rates go up to $45, $50 or $60 a month? My friend, that question just might be answered very soon as we will discuss it as Finding # 19.

Internalized Questions # 11:

Ed MacKay, Olaf Landsgaard, and Dennis Shingledecker claim they are the “Voice of the Community”. Are they really the “Voice of Special Interests”?

====================== Finding # 18 states: “Moving the sewer bill back to the water bill will decrease sewer fund revenues.”

The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 18: “The Board is without sufficient information by which to ascertain whether moving the sewer bill back to the water bill will decrease sewer fund revenues, on that basis, disagrees with this finding. The Board asserts that this finding is speculation.”

 

To read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: Finding 19 – “Pointing out the Obvious, Sometimes you have to do that.”

Finding 19 – “Pointing out the Obvious, Sometimes you have to do that.”

Finding # 19: The District is overdue for water and sewer rate studies.

Internalized Question # 12:

Why would the Kern County Grand Jury find it necessary to specifically point out this fact to the Rosamond Community Services District Board members?

Perhaps, as a parent, hoping to influence a child’s future decision-making; constantly reminds the child to make the right choices, in hopes that when presented a choice later on in life, that the child will make the right decision based upon his or her upbringing. One could venture that the Kern County Grand Jury highlight this obvious fact based upon the demonstrated past bad performance of these three rookie Board members. Ultimately, the grand jury is demonstrating its lack of trust that these three newly elected board members would ever make the right choice in any given situation. Maybe, just maybe; the grand jury is firing a shot across the bow to demonstrate an understanding (of things requiring action) that these three rookie board member clearly do not understand; in hopes they might do what needs to be done.

Internalized Question # 13:

Do we really want these three RCSD Board members to set any kind of policy that would be in a direct conflict with their personal interests? Can an injunction be filed? Will this recall really happen?

Concerning this specific finding, it is true! The RCSD is overdue for a rate study. The last one was done over five year ago. That said, maybe the board should consider the interval for which water and sewer rate studies are performed. Mistakes, similar to the exclusion of empty properties can have a devastating impact to a small town such as ours. I suggest we follow the example set by the City of Tallahassee, Florida (see the discussion for Finding # 14). In short, Tallahassee uses the season of survey consideration to incentivize water conservation. I think that would be VERY successful in Rosamond.

Since I began The Midnight Writings, the RCSD has released their individual response to the Kern County Grand Jury findings, let’s explore the laughable response the current board provided. They stated that they actually agree with this finding and then went on to use the official response to cast blame upon a previous RCSD Board. Claiming that the previous Board of 2013-2014 should have done began a Water and Sewer Rate Study prior to the November 2014 elections.

This “blame game” response is typical and therefore, not surprising of the current board at all. The eagerness to always pass the buck and never take any responsibility for their actions characterizes the group. The fact is that the MacKay-led board of 2015 failed to mention in their response was that the previous board had just completed a 5 Year Strategic Plan. A Strategic Plan is simply a document that provides a roadmap to success and is a very common business tool used by highly-effective organizations. It is also, the first step before water sewer rate study can begin. The previous board worked on the “5 Year Strategic Plan” for several months before adopting it, just two weeks before the November 2014 elections.

The previous board started the process for a new rate study months before the last election but, the November 2014 election results meant that a new board would be sworn in; that said, the previous board decided to allow the new Board to complete the rate study.

Let’s peel back the onion one more layer.

Internalized Question # 14:

It has been nine months since the election of November 2014, so what progress has the MacKay-led RCSD board done regarding the required water and sewer rate study?

Absolutely NOTHING, they have failed to start a rate study; in fact, they are consumed by arguing about the 5 year strategic plan (that I referenced above). The three of them are actually considering completing a new one even though the ink on the old one hasn’t even dried yet (it’s less than 10 months old). The current and approved “5 Year Strategic Plan” cost the ratepayers thousands of dollars to complete and their only reason they want a new one is because they did not write the last one; yet, they insist on hiring the same person who did the Strategic Plan in 2014.

Internalized Question # 15:

Are these rookie mistakes or blatant Fraud, Waste and Abuse issues that border on being criminal?

Earlier this week, when they fired Mr. Steve Perez, they actually got rid of an irritant; you see…since day one of this new board taking over, Mr. Perez has been hounding them about doing a rate study.

Additional Information concerning the Kern County Grand Jury, its duties, make-up and sworn oath commitment can be found on the Kern County Grand Jury website:

http://www.co.kern.ca.us/grandjury/reports.aspx?tab=3#.Vc5ylKow_AU

Let’s examine the purpose of a Grand Jury in Kern County. The Kern County Grand Jury is empaneled for a one-year term. The term just so happens to correspond with the County’s fiscal year, July 1st – June 30th. There are various Grand Jury committees that perform investigations of different government agencies and other entities and publish reports of their findings and recommendations.

The Grand Jury is comprised of a body of 19 citizens, independent of any political or special interest group. NO law degree or specific credential is necessary to be a Grand Jury member though an avid interest in preserving honest and proper conduct of ALL governmental agencies within Kern County is essential (perhaps this is the reason that Olaf snubs his nose at the grand jury, he is after all; a lawyer). Grand Jurors should also possess the desire to insure that all monies, within these areas of government, are being handled prudently and in the best interest of Kern County residents. The Grand Jury’s purpose is to serve and assist the people of Kern County.

The Kern County Grand Jury has two basic functions.

  1. Civil or “watch dog” function: In this capacity, the Jury has the power and duty to examine the function and performance of public offices and officers. They report their findings and can make recommendations for changes. For more information on the reporting process, see the Reports page.
  2. Criminal function: In this capacity, the Jury has the power and duty to inquire into possible public offenses, misconduct in office by public officers, and to determine whether to return indictments charging the commission of felonies.

Duties of the Kern County Grand Jury:

  1. Will objectively investigate, audit, or examine all aspects of County government, special districts, and cities to ensure that these bodies are being effectively governed and that public monies are being judiciously handled.
  2. May subpoena persons and/or records to obtain information on subjects under investigation.
  3. May issue an accusation against public officials that may result in removal from office if upheld by the Court.
  4. May conduct criminal hearings to hand down criminal indictments. After hearing evidence presented by the District Attorney’s office, an affirmative vote of at least 12 out of 19 jurors is necessary to indict.

The Presiding Judge of the Kern County Superior Court, who acts as the advisor to the Grand Jury, selects a foreperson for the Jury. The foreperson selects a foreperson pro-tem, a recording secretary, a sergeant-of-arms, and an assistant sergeant-at-arms. Committees are then formed. Each juror may serve on several committees.

These committees include: Ad Hoc Committees, Administration and Audit Committee, Budget Committee, Cities and Joint Powers Committee, Continuity Committee, Edit and Final Report Committee, Health, Education and Social Services Committee, Law and Justice Committee, Library Committee, Public Relations Committee, Special Districts Committee, and the Tracking Committee.

These committees conduct the majority of the work concerning investigations. A general business meeting is held weekly with all Grand Jury members present to coordinate activity.

The Grand Jury is sworn to secrecy and complete confidentiality as it pertains to complaints, witnesses, or content of investigative matters. The Grand Jury may not disclose any information they receive within the confines of the jury or the identity of anyone appearing before them, unless permission is given. Grand Jury investigations and interviews are protected by law. Grand Jury records may not be inspected nor subpoenaed. All hearings pertaining to criminal cases are conducted in complete secrecy regardless of their outcome.

The following oath is administered to Grand Jurors: “I do solemnly swear (affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and of the State of California, and all laws made pursuant to and in conformity therewith, will diligently inquire into, and true presentment make, of all public offenses against the people of this state, committed or triable within this county, of which the grand jury shall have or can obtain legal evidence. Further, I will not disclose any evidence brought before the grand jury, nor anything which I or any other grand juror may say, nor the manner in which I or any other grand juror may have voted on any matter before the grand jury. I will keep the charge that will be given to me by the court.” (Section 911, Penal Code, Amended June 2, 1983) These reports are made available to the general public and media as follows:

1) During the year, the individual reports are released and published on the Web site as Early Releases. Elected County officials are required by law to respond to each recommendation contained in these report(s) within 60 days of issuance; other County entities must respond to each recommendation within 90 days. These responses are published with the Early Releases soon after they are received.

2) At the end of each Grand Jury’s term, the Grand Jury issues its Final Report to the Presiding Judge. This Final Report contains the committee reports/responses plus general information about the Grand Jury. This report is also published on the Web site. A hard copy of the Final Report is available at the Beale Branch of the Kern County Library.

======================Finding # 19 states: “The District is overdue for water and sewer rate studies.”

The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 19: The Board agrees with this finding. The Board notes that the rate studies should have been conducted prior to the November 2014 election.

 

To read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: Finding 20 – “If you are going to have a job, you have to understand the job.”

Finding 20 – “If you are going to have a job, you have to understand the job.”

Finding # 20: Most Directors appear to lack sufficient understanding of water rates including tiered rate structures.

Motivation: According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online, the word motivation has many meanings. For this discussion, I want to reflect upon motivation as “a force or influence that causes someone to do something”.

Internalized Question # 16:

Why would someone campaign to be an elected official if he or she had no desire to actually perform the duties required for the position?

I want to suggest a possible answer based upon the verbiage in Kern County Grand Jury Report Finding # 20. The Olaf and his companions were so focused on getting into power, (they actually have no idea of how to run a services district) they forgot to get advice from experts who have served prior them. With water being a key commodity, one would at least think they would take the time to learn about the business in which that they are charged with running.

The most often identifier of a person who lacks the ability to comprehend what’s expected of them usually manifests itself in the form of words. The very words uttered from their mouths.

The three of them have been claiming since they announced their candidacy that the tiered water rates were illegal. Specifically, Olaf Landsgaard has claimed over and over on numerous occasions. Poor Dennis Shingledecker and Ed MacKay just couldn’t help themselves and simply hooked their wagons to Olaf’s lead and followed along with this rhetoric, simply because Olaf said it was so. They claimed throughout the campaign that the water rates were excessive and the public was being gouged; they also chimed in that we needed a flat rate.

Some of you may disagree with me. I believe the call for “flat rates” is a lazy and over-simplified answer to a complex question. Based upon the rhetoric coming from the trio, it also demonstrates that they “lack sufficient understanding of water rates including tiered rate structures”. In general, statements made without fact, are most likely baseless and groundless lies.

To prove the point a little further let’s look at some of the claims these three have made, along with the numerous times they have failed to seek guidance from those who know better.

  1. On the RCSD Agenda for February 11, 2015 Olaf Landsgaard proposed building a Marsh Land to be created with the reclaimed water that Rosamond produces, stating as a matter of fact that they can do this without getting any permits from the state’s governing body with regard to the distribution of water (http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/lahontan/ ) the governing body I am referring to is the Lahotan Regional Water Board (LRWB), based in South Lake Tahoe, California. Olaf naively stated that the LRWB did not have jurisdiction over this proposed project.
  2. Olaf was corrected at a Board meeting as it was pointed out to him that he was wrong that LRWB does have jurisdiction as well as the State Health Agency when it comes to Title 22 reclaimed water.
  3. Olaf was questioned about his motives for building a marsh land in the desert and creating yet another consumer of water especially…since the state is in severe drought conditions.
  4. A water industry expert pointed out to Olaf that to have real conservation with reclaimed water it is necessary to stop using drinking water for land irrigation.
  5. This subject was so emotional that on more than one instance, Board President Ed MacKay chastised the crowd for criticizing Olaf Landsgaard and his marsh idea (this attempt at suppressing public comment is a violation of the Brown Act, Finding # 1)
  6. On the RCSD Agenda for March 11, 2015, the RCSD had on the action calendar to discuss lowering the water & sewer rates.
  7. On the RCSD Agenda for April 21, 2015, the RCSD had on the action calendar to discuss the water rate structure (action item).
  8. On the RCSD Budget Workshop Agenda of May 26, 2015: Olaf asked for an immediate 20% reduction in water rates.
  9. On the RCSD Agenda for June 24, 2015 there was an agenda item to discuss Justification of Tiered Water Rates (action item).
  10. At the Candidates’ forum held by the Rosamond Community Advisory Council (RMAC) before the November 2014 election; Dennis Shingledecker was asked how he would solve the water issues during this severe drought (and this has got to be my personal favorite) Dennis replied; that his solution would be to build a pipeline from the closest desalination plant to send water to Rosamond and in the meantime would truck water into Rosamond from the desalination plant.

Just in case I lost you, the point I’m trying to make is to show the lack of knowledge these three men had before the election. This is not a problem; I do realize that not everyone can know everything all of the time, especially a subject as complex and confusing as tiered water rates; but, once an elected official steps into office, he or she should take the time to educate himself and use every resource available to learn so he or she can make responsible, educated decisions.

Some of their “crazy, hair-brained” proposals really make me scratch my head in wonder.

Specifically, with Dennis Shingledecker to make or suggest an idea like “a pipeline from the closest desalination plant to send water to Rosamond” just go to show how out of touch with reality he really was during the campaign and that he really has no idea what he is doing up there behind the dais. His comment is tantamount to someone suggesting to build a bridge to Hawaii, it is a ridiculous statement that makes no sense, same with Olaf’s Marsh plan.

Again, I reiterate; there is nothing wrong with not having knowledge or experience. There have been many new Board members over the years who haven’t known the first thing about water and sewer management, but when they get elected, they educated themselves. They reached out to the General Manager…they even called him at all hours via speed dial to ask a million & one questions…they sought the council of veteran directors and asked questions. They listened to the voices of the community.

The demonstrated behavior of the three stooges are unlike any I have ever seen. Instead of seeking the council of wisdom, they run to legal counsel. Instead of listening to public uproar, they attempt to smother dissent with the pillow of rule. Instead of doing what’s right for the community, they want to change the community into what’s right for them.

Furthermore, they are so committed to marching to their own agenda that they refuse to listen or learn about anything unfamiliar to them. They are so convinced that they are right and everyone else is wrong. They have taken a scorched earth approach to completing their agenda, as you can see by what they are doing now. One can compare that with what they said during their singular campaign to what they are doing and saying now; it becomes readily apparent that they are no more thinking rationally today than they were then. Unfortunately, with the recent firing of Steve Perez, this town is on the highway to hell.

In doing research for this section, I have become aware of numerous times that Ed, Olaf, and Dennis have rejected every attempt by industry experts to share knowledge, Steve Perez even reached out to them!

Steve gave a briefing and only Dennis showed up; additionally, there has never been an instance of any of these three board members picking up the phone to ask a question. (My sources have told me) there have been many opportunities for the three men to receive “self-improvement” based training on water distribution and other key-RCSD activities. On no less than two instances time was offered to go over all of the water related issues that they face only to be met with stares and silence.

When they took office there were and still are several unique issues facing the RCSD 1) basin adjudication, 2) arsenic issues, 3) chromium-6 issues, 4) stage 3 drought management, 5) development of a recycled water plan, 6) implementation of a water and sewer rate study, 7) identifying ways to get water into the water bank, 8) using recycled water to help stretch our drinking water supplies, 9) developing a plan to buy water on the open market 10), and RCSD pumping rates cuts from 3,000 acre feet to 600 acre feet. This is a short list, it could be much longer as new issues arise every single day. Clearly, this is not a job for ON-THE-JOB Training!

The previous laundry list in no way even comes close to addressing all of the issues. Ironically, with the firing of Mr. Steve Perez recently; Olaf and team eliminated their “Gate Keeper”, as Steve would filter, prioritize and assist in clearing administrative tasks from the Board members’ calendars to allow them to better focus on time sensitive issues. As a point of order, these three elected officials have focused on everything but water and sewer issues. Which led to the firing of the General Manager Steve Perez. Ironically, Steve was the only one in that Board room besides Byron who has any water or sewer experience and because this board has been too preoccupied with personal agendas and special interest alignment, they never took the time to learn about the real issues facing Rosamond. Furthermore, they just got rid of the one person who has any clue as to what is happening. It makes one shudder to think what lies ahead for us now. The only way to stop the three “of course” elected officials is via a recall effort.

***BOMBSHELL ALERT***

On August 18, 2015, after Steve Perez had been fired, Olaf Landsgaard made a presentation about how he felt that the State mandated water restrictions were out of line and that if, (on an individual basis) residents feel the need to water more than 2 days a week go ahead and do it. Olaf also said that people should be left on the “honor system to conserve water” and that water use should be “based on the size of the family”. What the heck? Did I just read that right?

Let me repeat that in layman’s terms, an elected official and an attorney would condone breaking the law by instructing the citizens of Rosamond to disobey the governor and his water conservation mandate.

Personally, I just find it very scary; but then again… Olaf is a lawyer…maybe he needs clients?

Concerning my reference to Olaf and his suggestion that allowable water use should be based on the size of the family; this is the very issue that got the Palmdale Water District into legal trouble.

Let’s talk about tiered water rates, case law and legal precedent, after all; when the three of them concocted their official response to the Grand Jury Finding, they stated, “ The Board asserts that it understands the District’s structure, rates, and new case law associated therewith.”

Facts:

There is a legal claim made by Olaf Landsgaard claiming to represent Aero Sports Skypark Corporation, dba Rosamond Skypark, F.B.O., both of the business entities are owned by Olaf Landsgaard. In this claim Olaf is claiming that the Tiered Water Rates that the RCSD has in place are illegal (a claim that he started back in 2013 and continued to claim all the way up to the election and continues to do so to this very day as a Director of the RCSD) and has been pushing for a flat water rate for everyone. Olaf is basing his claim on a court case that the Palmdale Water District lost in court over their Tiered Rates, the reason Palmdale Water District lost this case is because they had different rate Structures and different levels when the different tiers would kick in, (here’s background information for the Palmdale case: http://www.bbklaw.com/?t=40&an=8588&format=xml ) (you can find the copyright protected article from the February 17, 2014 edition of “The Rosamond News” at this URL: http://aadpb.com/ros20140217pres/Cover.html ).

Rosamond’s Tiered Rate structure is not like that of the Palmdale Water District. The RCSD rates are set up on units of water used, customers go over a certain amount and they pay the next higher rate regardless of who they are everyone pays the same rates; this was not the case in Palmdale.

Concerning Olaf’s lawsuit, note in the attachment that the first and last pages are written by Olaf and the remainder of the verbiage was copied off a computer. You will also see he is making a claim for over $10,000.

I am not making this stuff up…on February 17, 2014; “The Rosamond News” printed an article about this claim on Page C and on February 24, 2014 of “The Rosamond News” in a letter to the editor starting on Page 2 and continuing on Page B you will see a person representing the Rosamond Sky Park Association making it very clear that the association has nothing to do with this action by Olaf.

You will also notice in this letter to the editor that Olaf and his businesses have not made dues payments for some time (kind of unrelated, but it speaks to Olaf’s attention to detail) (you can find the copyright protected article from the February 24, 2014 edition “The Rosamond News” at this URL: http://aadpb.com/ros20140224wk4 ).

In June 2015, the Rosamond Skypark Association sued Olaf Landsgaard & Aero Sports Skypark Corporation in Kern County Superior Court, Case No. BCV-15-100050 for an unknown amount but it was filed as an unlimited civil case which is for claims of over $25,000. See Images 15 – 20: below.

Image 15

Image 15

Image 16

Image 16
Image 7Image 17
Image 18Image 18
Image 19Image 19
Image 20Image 20
Images 15 – 20: Letter from Mr. Landsgaard to the RCSD (2013), making a claim for over $10,000

Internalized Question # 17

 How can anyone in good faith take a sworn oath when entering into an elected position to an organization against which that person has a legal claim against?

In recent legal action, a California Fourth District Court of Appeal ruling that struck down the City of San Juan Capistrano’s tiered water rates as a violation of the state constitutional right to vote on taxes remains statewide precedent after the state high court yesterday rejected a request to de-publish the opinion. At the heart of this particular case is the court found that the city arbitrarily imposed a tier-based rating system without understanding the approach to the plan.

Let’s talk water rate pricing plans for a moment.

In recent legal action, a California Fourth District Court of Appeal ruling that struck down the City of San Juan Capistrano’s tiered water rates as a violation of the state constitutional right to vote on taxes remains statewide precedent after the state high court yesterday rejected a request to de-publish the opinion. At the heart of this particular case is the court found that the city arbitrarily imposed a tier-based rating system without understanding the approach to the plan.

“…While tiered, or inclined rates that go up progressively in relation to usage are perfectly consonant [fine and legal] with [Proposition 218], the tiers must still correspond to the actual cost or providing service at a given of usage,” the jurist explained. In other words, it appears that San Juan Capistrano must have their very own version of our “One for All, All for one” team, for they did exactly what the untrained, unwilling the comprehend and unwilling to accept input RCSD board desires to implement in Rosamond.

I do want to say, this is not an EXACT comparison, Olaf and his partners want to implement a flat rate system. The similarities to the San Juan Capistrano case draw parallels from the fact the two boards want to implement plans, obviously NOT based upon and actual supply and demand numbers.

The ruling came shortly after Governor Jerry Brown issued drought orders that called on local water agencies to implement tiered water pricing to help save water. About two-thirds of water districts in the state use tiered water pricing, The Associated Press reported, and the ruling was being closely watched to see how it might apply beyond San Juan Capistrano.

That city charged nearly four times as much per unit of water for the highest users to encourage conservation. Residents complained the higher rates were arbitrary and unfair.

WARNING, THE NEXT PARAGRAPH HAS AND WILL BE TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT BY MACKAY, LANDSGAARD, AND SHINGLEDECKER:

The Court of Appeal held on April 20, 2015 that San Juan Capistrano’s tiered water rates are unconstitutional, potentially dealing a blow to agencies statewide that have used the pricing structure to encourage people to save water.

THE PREVIOUS PARAGRAPH WILL BE MISQUOTED, AND USED AS THE FOUNDATION FOR A SCARE CAMPAIGN TO FRIGHTEN VOTERS INTO THINKING THAT THE RCSD HAS BEEN IN VIOLATION OF STATE GUIDELINES.

NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH.

Here’s a link to the complete article: http://www.metnews.com/articles/2015/court072315.htm

A fellow Rosamond resident, Mr. Roger Muse; writes, “Just a note on Shingledecker’s idiocy when proposing his “pipeline” idea. The cost of building a water pipeline in the Southwest is estimated to be $1.5 million per mile. It is about 300 miles to the nearest desalinization plant (not located on an island), it is [located near Monterey, California]. So $450,000,000.00 just to build it, never-mind the cost of pumping the water from there to here. That comes out to about $2,500.00 for every man woman and child in Rosamond. What family of four has $10,000.00 to throw into RCSD’s leaking bucket?”

The article that Mr. Muse found is located here: http://web.mit.edu/12.000/www/m2012/finalwebsite/solution/solutions.shtml

So what was the RCSDs initial response to Olaf’s legal claim against them?

The initial response by the RCSD came on February 7, 2014 from the District Attorney, Mr. John Gibson. He replied via letter, “As per your government claim, we are presently unable to accept such claim and are therefore denying same pursuant to the codes.” This response became the reason that Olaf and his fellow Board members established the firing of Mr. John Gibson as “job one” (see Image 21, below).

Image 21

Image 21: The initial RCSD response to a claim of over $10,000 against the RCSD.

====================== Finding # 20 states: “Most Directors appear to lack sufficient understanding of water rates including tiered rate structures.”

The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 20: The Board disagrees. The Board asserts that it understands the District’s structure, rates, and new case law associated therewith.

 

TO read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: Finding 21 – “By Their Deeds You Shall Know them”.

Finding 21 – “By Their Deeds You Shall know them”

Finding # 21: The District has approached the Kern County Board of Supervisors to terminate the agreement for the operation of the Rosamond Community Pool and Recreation Center; no money has been allocated to the 2015-2016 District Budget for recreational activities.

This story has many angles and it is kind of hard to know where to begin so let’s start with some facts and then a little background.

First, the facts: (as outlined in the Kern County Grand Jury Final Report) Parks and Recreation was added as a function of the district in 1998.

  1. When instituted, an additional ballot measure providing operational funds for the parks and recreation was defeated by the voters.
  2. The District acquired Jim Williford Community Park from Kern County (County) in 2007.
  • The District receives approximately $230,000 (annually) in ad valorem tax revenue which is discretionary revenue, and $82,000 from the County Service Area to pay for park and 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 this transfer more complicated.

3.  In 2007, the Board founded the Rosamond Community Foundation, a non-profit organization to support the Parks and Recreation Department.

An “ad valorem tax” is a tax imposed on the basis of value. The County levies an ad valorem property tax rate equal to one percent (1%) of the full assessed value. Additional rates may be added to include an amount equal to the amount needed to make payments for the interest and principal on general obligation bonds or other indebtedness approved by the voters. The tax rate is per every $100 of the assessed value.

The background:

In November 1998 the RCSD asked voters to give the RCSD parks and recreation powers which they did, also on the same ballot the voters were asked to fund the parks and recreation powers and that measure failed. That said, RCSD attempted to fund park and recreation efforts without rate payer-based funding support.

There were only two park and recreation areas in existence at that time; with the Rosamond (Glendower Park, being the oldest.) Glendower Park is an approximately 10-acre neighborhood park located south of Alexander Avenue and east of Glendower Street. It was established in 1953 and is Rosamond’s largest developed park site.

The newer of the two original Rosamond parks; Westpark (Jim Williford) Park was initially constructed in 1992 and offered lighted tennis and basketball courts, play equipment, picnic areas, restrooms, an activity building and most importantly a swimming pool.

Sometime prior to 2006, due to a lack of funding for operations and maintenance, Kern County closed the pool, filled it with sand and capped it with asphalt. The land for Jim Williford Park was ultimately acquired from the county via a “quit claim” deed effort. A quit claim deed is a legal instrument which is used to transfer interest in real property. The entity transferring their interest is called the grantor, and when the quit claim deed is properly completed and executed it transfers any interest the grantor has in the property to a recipient, called the grantee. The owner/grantor terminates (“quits”) any right and claim to the property, thereby allowing the right or claim to transfer to the recipient/grantee. As a result of the quit claim effort, Kern County transferred ownership of Jim Williford Park to the Rosamond Community Services District. Jim Williford Park was constructed in 1992.

From 1998 till 2003 the board worked hard to develop park areas. The first (in this era) was, United Street Park a piece of land owned by SKUSD. United Street Park was opened debt free in 2003 to give the community a new park to enjoy.

To show the community that the Rosamond Community Services District was not just “paying lip service” and would build parks for the community, a Park System Master Plan was developed and approved in 2006 (In the hopes that when the timing and economy was right, the RCSD would be able to show the voters tangible results of their efforts (in the form of family-friendly, parks and recreational areas) rather than ending another term with just handful of empty promises.)

As a direct result of the Park System Master Plan, it was noted that Glendower Park was in dire need of infrastructure updates; at 53 years old, the park was really showing its age.

As stated, in the facts (above) The Rosamond Community Foundation was formed in July of 2007 by the Rosamond Community Services Districts Board of Directors. They motioned and approved the formation of a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. With the approval of the RCSD Board, The Rosamond Community Foundation was established, primarily to seek funding for recreational and enrichment activities in efforts to help build the Districts Parks and Recreation division. The RCF is a non-profit, tax exempt 501 (c) (3) corporation that broadens the parks and recreational facilities of Rosamond residents. The Rosamond Foundation was designated to receive gifts from businesses, individuals, corporations, foundations and government entities.

A few accomplishments of note for the RCF include; the RCF, 1) helped fund the former Skate Park, 2) provided a handicap lift for the pool, 3) provided a new pool heater to raise the comfort level of the water for senior citizens who liked their early morning swims. This is just a small sampling; actually, the RCF did many things (typically small in scale; but rewarding to the community.) In recent years, the effectiveness of the RCF has waned as personalities and special interests took a toll on the group’s benevolence (Minutes, June 12, 2012). At one time, Mr. John Joyce was on the RCF board (it has been reported that his constant attempts to steer the RCF in a direction favorable to his interest) and ultimately he was forced to leave the foundation (Minutes, January 10, 2012) after allegedly physically threatening to assault two of the committee members during a heated exchange. Shortly after his departure, “The Rosamond News” began what appeared to be a three-year public battle against the RCF. Eventually the negative press most likely resulted in diminished donations and an overall malaise of the board members. As Mr. Joyce’s personal attorney, Olaf Landsgaard seems to be giving Mr. Joyce’s personal vendetta extra legs; as Olaf successfully led the current board to defund the RCF and sever all ties. (Oh well, this is a story best saved for another day!)

In 2008, the entire U.S. economy took a tumble, and unfortunately the economy has never really fully recovered. A vote has never been placed on a ballot to pursue the dreams described in the 2006 Park System Master Plan. Only recently have residents witnessed signs of rebounding and members of the community have begun expressing an interest in our community’s future development.

During the period from 1998 through 2014 parks were funded with the Rosamond Community Services District portion of property tax revenue. As an “ad Valorem” tax, it is discretionary revenue and not restricted to a single purpose. To fill gaps in the “ad Valorem” revenue and the cost of developing and maintaining parks and recreation areas, funds were borrowed from water and sewer “reserve” revenue. Over this sixteen-year time span, the total accumulated amount borrowed from the water and sewer reserve revenue amounted to $2,000,000.

In 2009 the Rosamond Community Services District took over the County Service Areas in Rosamond in an attempt to better utilize revenue from Kern County, the RCSD felt it could perform park and recreation support functions more efficiently; at less cost than what Kern County was spending. The intent was to save money to help fund parks and pay down the debt owed to the water and sewer reserve.

With efficiencies in mind, Steve Perez wanted to proverbially, “kill two birds with one stone”; he approached the SKUSD after ballot measure passed statewide providing a huge windfall of cash to all school districts. Seeking to leverage the SKUSD’s newly found wealth, he led the effort to allow SKUSD to take over United Street Park. His plan was to keep United Street Park open and unburden the RCSD from its obligation to maintain the park. He additionally wanted to use that relief to help pay back the park loans. Ultimately, his efforts kept the park open for the community and freed up the money RCSD was spending on it to pay down the debt.

United Street Park occupies school district property; the community uses it and although responsible for upkeep the RCSD was not doing a great job. RCSD blamed financial constraints. In 2014, Southern Kern unified School District took over the function of park maintenance.

The most recent RCSD development effort took place in 2009 and it involved building a skate park on Southern Kern Unified School District (SKUSD) property (adjacent to the Albertsons shopping area.) Unfortunately, due to a SKUSD expansion project, the SKUSD asked the RCSD to remove the Skate Park by June 30, 2014 so they could place offices there during a construction project. Today, the Skate Park is but a distant memory, while the equipment from the former park sits in an RCSD equipment storage area (See Image 22, below).

Image 22

Image 22: The remains of the former Skate Park sitting in an RCSD equipment storage area. 

Influence of the trio

During 2014 “The Rosamond News” ran dozens of negative articles about the RCSD Board and Steve Perez in regards to United Street Park, Jim Williford Park, and the Skate Park. Concerning the Skate Park “The Rosamond News” had a countdown to the closing day (go back and look at the articles from 2014) even using the headline “RCSD Destroys Skate Park.” I mention this for the simple fact that MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker used the Skate Park issue as a stable in their “all-for-one” campaign. They even using the term “Destroyed the Skate/BMX Park” in their campaign ads. The sentiment that they successfully espoused by the trio and their alleged mouthpiece; “The Rosamond News”, was plain and simple, as public opinion was that, “The RCSD Board members and Steve Perez hate the community, and the youth of Rosamond”. The faulty logic they used was, “how could they [the RCSD] do something so heartless as to close down the skate park.” The reality is much more benign, the Southern Kern Unified School District required access to the property that was “loaned” to the Skate Park.

Money (unrestricted, restricted, and CSA funds):

Unrestricted: This is “ad valorem” money which is unrestricted which means it can be used for anything under RCSD jurisdiction this money goes up and down because it is based on property values. For this discussion we are talking about $230,000 of “ad valorem” funds.

Restricted: This is money earmarked for water and sewer. This money is collected for specific purposes and its use is restricted. This means the funds are maintained separately and can only be used for whatever purpose for which they were collected. One caveat to restricted money…RCSD can and has borrowed from those funds to be used somewhere else (parks for example). When RCSD borrows from the restricted funds, they must present a payback plan at the time the loan is secured (prior to 2015, the Rosamond Community Foundation served as the mechanism to support previous payback plans.

CSA funds: This is also restricted to a certain extent, as the manner in which CSA funds work. For example, CSA 63 Zone 6 allocates $82,000 (2014 funds) for the operations and maintenance of Jim Williford Park. CSA 63 Zone 6 funds must be used for the Jim Williford Park. If RCSD can maintain Williford Park for $70,000 and they have $12,000 left over at the end of the year, then they are allowed to use that extra money elsewhere. CSA 63 Zone 5 funds must be used for the Westpark Swimming Pool, operating a pool is expensive and the allocation of $82,000 (2014 funds) did not cover all of the operating expenses; so the remaining $12,000 from CSA 63 Zone 6 is permitted to go to the pool fund, as it is a subset of the overall park complex. CSA 63 Zones 1 thru 4 all work the same way. If RCSD uses the funds efficiently and achieves a surplus, then they can use those surplus funds elsewhere. 

Today’s Situation: Now that you have the background let’s come back to present day.

The current RCSD Board members have, from day one, had their eyes on the non-discretionary funds coming in from Kern County. As stated by the Kern County Grand Jury in the Final Report, “The District receives approximately $230,000 in ad valorem tax revenue which is discretionary revenue, and $82,000 from the County Service Area to pay for park and pool maintenance.” MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker, had plans to use this money to pay for the ($50,000 they illegally borrowed for the street lights) and any other “special interest” projects they had in mind. This is the SOLE REASON that the RCSD Board did not open the pool for the summer of 2015. The trio, led by Olaf said that by “not opening the pool it would free up that money to do other things” even though they were told by the accountant that 100% of the $230,000 needed to go to paying down the debt they could not take it and use it somewhere else, of course they disagreed. Ironically, with the Great Drought of 2013 – 2015 in full effect, the public was led to believe that the RCSD was “doing its part” in supporting diminished water use by closing the pool. Nothing could be farther from the truth and Ed, Olaf, and Dennis too no action to clarify the matter.

Previous RCSD boards, have traditionally intended to use surplus CSA money, the Rosamond Community Foundation, and money saved from giving United Street Park back to the Southern Kern Unified School District to pay back the $2,000,000 dollars borrowed from the water and sewer funds over the years. However; when discussing tradition with these three, that word doesn’t exist.

This is why 100% of the “ad valorem” and CSA funds is already spoken for until the $2,000,000 is paid back to the Water and Sewer Reserve.

For this very reason, the act of borrowing $50,000 from the restricted street lighting fund was illegal.

Even if, Olaf and his friends close all the parks, they still have access to no money, because those funds are already committed and the fact that they CHOSE to kill the Rosamond Community Foundation, they have no way to legally raise funds or receive donations. Bottom-line: THEY HAVE NO WAY TO PAY IT BACK!

I will now provide with you a factual timeline of their actions.

Actually it is not a timeline; it’s a path that the trio is probably using to “effectively” bankrupt Rosamond. With Steve Perez no longer in the picture, it’s almost like a kickoff returner in the Super Bowl on the 30 yard line running full speed with no defender in the way to slow them down, much less tackle them. According to an article I found at NPR.ORG, the article reads, “If a city or town declares bankruptcy, does it affect others nearby?   Yes. Surrounding cities and towns can find it harder to borrow money for new projects because investors — who buy and sell bonds — will question their financial viability. That’s why states often intervene to prop up a faltering municipality and avoid the sting of bankruptcy.” The article continues, “Sometimes all it takes for a town or city to get help from the state capital is the mere threat of bankruptcy.” It reads like the ultimate way out of an overall bad situation… the article finishes with a foreboding statement, “It’s an instrument of getting attention and getting others to help you… (Weiner, E., 2008).

During the research for this book, I became aware that Zion National Bank, of Salt Lake City, Utah actually holds a line of credit for the RCSD. The note was established as the outcome of a financial deal gone wrong when, according to a former RCSD Board Member, “The district acted in good faith to commit to constructing the water treatment plant…ultimately we found out that the email that we were presented represented an unfulfillable promise by a potential investor…because we had committed to the construction project based on an email promise, we ultimately had to seek external funding to the tune of $8.3 million dollars…to this very day, Zion Bank holds the future of Rosamond in their vaults.” The former Board Member went on to tell me that bankruptcy is not an option for the RCSD and “State of California regulators will come in and turn our town upside down if that line of credit were to ever default.”

January 29, 2015: Action Item B.: Discussion regarding the discretionary revenue source and the expenditure of the discretionary revenue. This was the meeting that District Accountant Brad Rockabrand told the Board members that if the money is not going to be used for parks and recreation; then it has to be used to pay down the previous loans from the water and sewer reserve.

February 11, 2015: Action Item D.: Discussion regarding giving Jim Williford Park to Southern Kern Unified School District, this is where they talked about having SKUSD take over Jim Williford Park and the swimming pool.

February 25, 2015: Action Item A.: Discussion regarding County Service Areas: 63.4, 63.5, and 63.6. Again this was looking for money to grab for other things.

RCSD refers to them a CSAs; Kern County refers to them as ”Zones of Benefit”; CSA 63.4 concerns landscaping maintenance (when I called Kern County to research this, I was told this CSA primarily involves the area near 40th Street West), CSA 63.5 concerns the Westpark Swimming Pool and CSA 63.6 concerns the Westpark Landscaping.

On a personal note, the county official I spoke with made a point to tell me several times that funds dedicated to a certain CSA zone of benefit, cannot be used for any other purpose (he also told me that he doesn’t get many phone calls asking about Zones of Benefit).

March 11, 2015: Action Item H: Discussion and possible action regarding the opening of Jim Williford Park Pool.

March 11, 2015: Action Item I: Discussion and possible action to convey Jim Williford Park to SKUSD.

March 11, 2015: Action Item M: Discussion regarding the financial position of CSA 63.4; CSA 63.5; CSA 63.6.

March 25, 2015: Action Item D: Discussion and possible adoption of Resolution 2015-4, regarding non-involvement of District Directors on Board of Directors of the Rosamond Community Foundation.

This was puzzling because The Rosamond Foundation was created by the RCSD as a 501(c)3 to fund parks and recreation through donations and grants and fund raisers and the by-laws were written so that sitting RCSD Board members were automatically seated on the foundation board. The MacKay-led RCSD board, wants nothing to do with the foundation and passed a resolution forbidding any RCSD Board member from serving of the RCF Board, unless they do it as a private citizen.

In other words the RCSD officially cut its ties with The Rosamond Foundation and therefore severing its ties with its only possible outside funding source the 501(c)3 Rosamond Foundation (TELL ME I AM NOT READING THIS? .THIS DOESN’T MAKE SENSE….) the vote passed 4 to 1 with Byron Glennan voting “No.”

March 25, 2015: Action Item E: Discussion and possible action regarding the opening of Jim Williford Park Swimming Pool. They voted to close the pool by a 4 to 1 vote.

Ironically, this brings us back to the Skate Park and all of the noise that Olaf and Mr. John Joyce (“The Rosamond News”) was making over the closing of a park that the RCSD had no control over.

As previously stated, SKUSD owns the property where the Skate Park was located and wanted the Skate Park gone. In a strange twist of logic, with MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker CHOOSING to close the pool (a completely voluntary act) without regard for the negative impact it ultimately had upon families and the youth or Rosamond.

In a strangely predictive move, “The Rosamond News” remained utterly silent on the issue and completely ignored the social issue of “boredom in a desert town” and looked the other way, when this town suffered days upon days of graffiti, vandalism and increased crime; possibly stimulated by “boredom”.

I think you are starting to see that either “The Rosamond News” is allegedly in the back pocket of the three newly elected Board members or the three board members are allegedly in the back pocket of “The Rosamond News” but someone is in somebody’s back pocket. (I think you could call that an allegedly mutually beneficial relationship).

March 25, 2015: Action Item F: Discussion and possible action to convey Jim Williford Park to the County of Kern they voted 4 to 1 to give the CSA 63.5 and Jim Williford Park back to Kern County.

NOTE: In the County of Kern Adopted Budget for 2014-15, CSA 63.5 (the Westpark Swimming Pool) was allocated $78,052.00. In layman’s terms, money that could have been only used for swimming pool operations and maintenance was returned back to Kern County.  

April 21, 2015: Action Item A: Discussion and possible action to remove/separate the RCSD Foundation from the district premises and use of facilities. This was meant to be (what they considered to be the final “nail in the coffin” of the Rosamond Foundation but they had to amend their motion because if they banned the foundation, then they had to ban everyone…but never the less they booted the foundation.

May 27, 2015: Action Item B: Discussion and possible action to rescind the letter sent to Kern County regarding the termination of CSA 63.5 agreement. This action was taken because in their haste to unload the park back to Kern County it was discovered that the park had been “quit claimed” to the RCSD back in 2009. By voting the way they did back on March 25, 2015, they gave the County Services Area 63.5 money ($78,052.00) back to Kern County, yet; the RCSD is still stuck with Jim Williford Park operations and maintenance. As a result of their failure to ask questions and do their homework; they gave away the only funding source left for Jim Williford Park. As of today, the amateurish actions of the trio have resulted in an unpaid bill to ratepayers who are now “stuck” with a park that has no budget to provide routine maintenance and general upkeep.

In the County of Kern Adopted Budget for 2014-15, CSA 63.5 (the Westpark Swimming Pool) was allocated $78,052.00. In layman’s terms, money that could have been only used for swimming pool operations and maintenance was returned back to Kern County.  

In conclusion, it is my opinion that this board is so blinded by their agenda that they are destroying everything in their path to fulfill it.

They closed the pool, severed ties and cut themselves off from the 501(c)3 Foundation, they voted to give the County Services Area 63 Zone 5 funds ($78,052.00) back to Kern County, it is obvious that they do not want anything to do with parks and recreation. Ultimately, they are convinced that the $220,000 is free money to spend how they wish. MacKay, Landsgaard and Shingledecker have alluded to having all that extra money available to do whatever with; but, that money is legally obligated elsewhere. They have even dismissed the opinion of their own accountant’s advice.

In the end, the joke is on us, Rosamond, this is a call to action!

=====================Finding # 21 states: “The District has approached the Kern County Board of Supervisors to terminate the agreement for the operation of the Rosamond Community Pool and Recreation Center; no money has been allocated to the 2015-2016 District Budget for recreational activities.”

The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 21: The Board agrees with this finding. The Board notes that it receives inadequate revenues to provide recreational activities and services.

 

To read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: Finding 22 – “Wrapping it all up”.

Finding 22 – “Wrapping it all up”

 

Finding # 22: The staff provides background information on District business to Directors for agendized items.

As we approach the end of our journey, these last two findings are short, but; they are also important because they tie the bow on the ribbon and make for a pretty depiction of a very ugly situation. When viewed as a whole the other 21 Kern County Grand Jury Findings, these final two findings provide a good summary of the entire report.

As with “Finding # 9”, the Grand Jury uses words that taken merely on face value appear to be a positive comment; however, as with the three of them, things are never exactly as they appear to be.

It is what the Grand Jury did not say that is important here! Grand Jury did not say “Staff may, Staff will, Staff could or Staff should”: No, they make a statement of fact. “STAFF PROVIDES”; which means the information is there and it is up to the Directors to read, study, research, make phone calls, do their homework and due diligence to prepare themselves for each meeting.

One can go back to all of the Grand Jury findings # 3 and 4; and quickly see that the directors are not prepared, or even know what they are doing. That’s not what the Grand Jury is implying here. The Grand Jury is telling anyone who reviews the report that although they are provided background information on District business by the staff; it is the responsibility of the actual Board members to consider the will of the community when rendering decisions. The Grand Jury is recognizing the hard work of the RCSD staff and is in effect “throwing them a bone” and placing full responsibility upon the Board members to practice due-diligence in reading, researching, understanding, and weighing the community impact of the issues for which they are provided detailed background information.

This finding serves as a “pass” to the RCSD staff members and reinforcing the thought that it is not the fault of the staff or the General Manager that the Board members decide to go against solid advice and “make it up as they go”. Responsibility for ill-formed Board member decisions (as previously identified in Findings # 3, 4, 9, 10, and 11 it is THE BOARD MEMBERS’ FAULT and their fault alone).

For example, in the August 12, 2015 Board meeting the Board was discussing Assessment District 91-3. At hand was a very simple accounting move to shuffle money to insure protection of bond holders. A question was asked of the board about maturity being affected; at which all of the new directors looked to the attorney for the answer. The answer in this case was a resounding “No”, but the fact the directors had to have the attorney answer the question is proof that the members of “The Olaf Trio” do not read the information that is provided to them. If they had taken the time to read the proposal they would have seen section 7.01, 7.03 and 7.05 with the language underlined explaining the action they were taking.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident, situations similar to this occur at almost every meeting. The three of them, sit there with blank stares on their faces and seemingly, because they are too proud, stubborn, or plain lazy to read, research, ask questions or pick up the phone in an effort to educate themselves on the issues at hand.

===================Finding # 22 states: “The staff provides background information on District business to Directors for agendized items.”

The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 22: The Board agrees with this finding.

 

To read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: Finding 23 – “Putting a Ribbon on it”.

Finding 23 – “Putting a Ribbon on it”

Finding # 23: Interaction between Directors and District staff appeared to be strained, and this prolonged District business during the April 21, 2015 Meeting.

This is a statement of fact because the Grand Jury was in attendance and saw for themselves and all of these findings show that the reasons interaction is strained is because of the attitude the new board has had with staff. Bottom-line; the new board has never trusted the staff or the General Manager from day one and they have publicly questioned Ms. Lizette Guerrero and the RCSD Accountant Brad Rockabrand on their ethics.

They have gone so far as to, bring in outside people to listen to the tapes to type up the minutes because they did not trust Ms. Guerrero and on several occasions they have criticized Mr. Rockabrand on his accounting methods, to include his budgetary calculations and figures. Additionally, they question every move he makes and everything he says. Volumes could be written on the actions they have taken toward (former) General Manager Steve Perez (which ultimately led to his firing). The Grand Jury saw it, we see it; OF COURSE the interaction between Directors and District staff are strained. The staff has done nothing to warrant this behavior from the board. Olaf and his friends’ actions have the RCSD Staff sitting on pins and needles at every meeting, fearing that they are going to be publicly ridiculed, criticized, and chastised or brow beaten by Ed, Olaf, and Dennis.

I think what the Grand Jury meant to say that there is a TOXIC relationship between the Directors and almost ANYONE in the community. Ultimately, it is the rate payers, their families, their property and related values that are going to be negatively impacted by the toxic agenda being spewed by Mr. Morrison “Ed” MacKay, Mr. Olaf Landsgaard, and Mr. Dennis Shingledecker.

====================== Finding # 23 states: “Interaction between Directors and District staff appeared to be strained, and this prolonged District business during the April 21, 2015 Meeting.”

The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 23: The Board agrees with this finding. The Board notes that the allegedly prolonged April 21, 2015 board meeting was partially extended due to the Board taking sufficient time to listen to all constituents’ comments.

 

To read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: Analysis

Analysis – “Putting in an honest effort”

The Kern County Grand Jury not only put forth twenty three findings against the Rosamond Community Services District, but also, provided a path (a roadmap, if you will) to recovery.

Before any roadmap can be of use, one must first admit he or she is lost and in need of direction. As of this writing the RCSD, led by Ed MacKay has failed to recognize their current condition and has emitted only disdain for the Kern County Grand Jury.

So in an attempt to lay it out in a manner that even this trio can understand, I came up with a grid to depict the problem areas that should be worked with urgency. See below:

The Finding Index numbers are laid out across the top of the matrix and the Recommendation Index numbers run down the right side of the matrix. Where any the Findings number intersects a Recommendation number, I placed an “X”. The total number of “X’s per Recommendation is total on the left side of the matrix. I suggest to you, that this matrix can be used to identify which recommendations should be addressed first in order to achieve the maximum impact upon clearing out the report findings. Again, this matrix is worthless, unless the RCSD Board Members are willing to listen.

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Here are my suggested priorities:

Priority 1: R7. Before taking any action on sewer rates, the Board should approve a new sewer rate study which takes into account unoccupied residences rates. (Findings 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 20) (Remarks) Consider conducting Sewer Rate Studies every 12 months. Allows “pulse assessment” on corrective measures, waiting five years is too long to wait to fix problems.

Priority 2: R8. The sewer fund should generate funding sufficient to cover costs and maintain the proper reserve. (Findings 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 20)

Priority 3: R3. The Board should approve meeting minutes in a timely manner. (Findings 3, 5, 6, and 7)

Priority 4: R4. Directors should be educated on agendized items in order to have focused discussion and prevent excessive tabling. (Findings 3 and 4)

Priority 5: R5. Director votes should be by roll call and audible to all in attendance. (Findings 10 and 11)

Priority 6: R11. The Directors should do research prior to further action regarding parks and recreation. (Findings 19 and 20) (Remarks) A little “market research” in this area could go a long way in healing the community rift. Let the people have a say in what’s important to them, then considered prioritizing projects based upon customer impact and exposure.

Priority 7: R 1. The Board should comply with the Brown Act at all times. (Finding 1)

Priority 8: R2. Individual Directors should meet with staff prior to Board meetings to be better informed regarding District business. (Finding 4) (Remarks) Documented meetings and a “scorecard”, would alleviate this issue.

Priority 9: R6. The street lighting fund should generate funding sufficient to cover costs and build a reserve. (Finding 13)

Priority 10: R9. The District should conduct a water rate study before proposing new water rates. (Finding 21) (Remarks) See action for Priority 1. Water and Sewer go “hand in hand”.

Priority 11: R10. The Directors should educate themselves on the differences and consequences between flat and tiered water rates. (Finding 19) (Remarks) Create a path to properly assessing the factors in determining actual water delivery costs and verify that tiered water rates are incompliance with state guidance or scrap tiered water rates altogether and set a fixed cost that is adjusted annually as a result of an annual Water and Sewer Rate Survey.

Priority 12: R12. The Board of Directors and District staff should work to improve their interactions. (Finding 22)

 

To read the next section click here:  The Midnight Writings: After the Kern County Grand Jury Report

Reference 1BIBLIOGRAPHY

“About Us.” Rosamond Community Services:. Web. August 22, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.rosamondcsd.com/about-us (page 8).

“Biography.” Biography. Web. August 22, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.olaflandsgaard.com/bio.html (page 11).

Joyce, J. (2015, August 15). 20150815 Rosamond Dedicates Traditional Catholic Church 93560. Retrieved August 30, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnN6G2ecaGQ (page11).

“Rosamond, Ca. 93560.” About. Web. August 22, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.rosamondca.us/about/default.html (page 8).

“Minutes: January 10, 2012.” RF Minutes. Web. August 25, 2015. Retrieved from http://rosamondfoundation.org/Minutes/Minutes%20of%20January%202012.doc (page 84).

“Minutes: July 12, 2012.” RF Minutes. Web. August 25, 2015. Retrieved from http://rosamondfoundation.org/Minutes/Minutes%20of%20June%202012.doc (page 84).

Robert’s Rules Online: RulesOnline.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rulesonline.com/ August 23, 2015 (page 41).

“Olaf Landsgaard.” Web. August 22, 2015. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pub/olaf-landsgaard/15/b30/b88 (page 11).

Weiner, E. (2008, February 28). What Happens When City Hall Goes Bankrupt? Retrieved August 25, 2015.http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=60740288 (page 87).

Meeting Agenda. (2015, August 26). Retrieved August 30, 2015, from http://rosamondcsd.com/home/showdocument?id=706 (page 125)

CA Form 700: Mr. Landsgaard. (n.d.). Retrieved August 31, 2015, from http://www.rosamondcsd.com/home/showdocument?id=434 (page 125)

An intriguing look into the events start led to a Kern County Grand Jury investigation.

An intriguing look into the events start led to a Kern County Grand Jury investigation.

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgements

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.

Dedication

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.

INTRODUCTION

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 1Image 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

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).

Image 3Image 3: Circa 1963 Promotional Flyer for a Rosamond community event.

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.

Image 4Image 4: Campaign flyer by Shingledecker, MacKay, and Landsgaard.

THE CHARACTERS:

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.

PROCESS:

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.

FACTS:

  • The November 2014 election resulted in three new Directors being seated.
  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  1. The District pays Southern California Edison for electricity and maintenance.
  2. Initially, the fee was sufficient to cover costs and build a reserve.
  3. The lighting fund reserve has been depleted.
  4. The cost of street lighting currently exceeds revenues generated.
  5. 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
  6. Disagreement exists between directors and staff on how to proceed with street lighting issues.
  7. 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.
  1. In the past, the sewer fee was placed on the water bill.
  2. When residences were vacant and water service shut off, a water bill was not issued; therefore sewer fees were not collected.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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”