Post Grand Jury Action # 1: Hiring of a replacement RCSD, General Manager.
Background: August 12, 2015 at a special closed RCSD meeting, the Board of Directors relieved Mr. Steve Perez of all RCSD related duties (essentially placing him on a paid vacation) until his contract expires in June 2016. Based primarily upon a spoiled relationship due to a very negative political campaign, the Axis of Olaf knew Mr. Perez would be a roadblock to their agenda.
Earlier in the year, the RCSD expressed a desire to Mr. Perez that he should leave the RCSD, Mr. Perez basically told them without legal grounds for dismissal they were going to have a very difficult time getting rid of him. Mr. Perez countered with an offer to reduce his remaining contract to June 2016. By cutting the contract by a year, the Axis of Olaf would be able to have a “way ahead” and possibly have another year to target Mr. Perez for formal dismissal. The RCSD Board agree to Mr. Perez’ counteroffer and negotiated a settlement wherein Mr. Perez would retire from the RCSD in June 2016.
Having previously negated one year off of Mr. Perez’s remaining two-year contract and having no legal grounds for which to fired him, they could stand it no longer. The RCSD decided to continue to pay Mr. Perez and hire a second (Interim) General Manager. During the public comments after the relieving Mr. Perez of his duties, Mr. Landsgaard conveniently elected to duck out to attend the dedication ceremony of the newly formed Catholic Church in Rosamond. Later that evening, Olaf returned to the building to attend the regularly schedule 7:00PM Board Meeting.
August 18, 2015, during Public Comments at a Special “Closed” Meeting to discuss the hiring of a new General Manager, Olaf Landsgaard had to be ordered to stop responding to public comments by Board President Ed MacKay. The particular incident centered around Olaf’s response when someone from the public audience in attendance asked, “Do you have any idea of who you are going to hire?” Olaf blurted out, “We have someone in mind.” At the point, realizing that Olaf may have unintentionally provided evidence of another Brown Act violation, Ed MacKay slammed the gavel down several times and yelled, “Point of order! Point of Order!” Olaf immediately stopped talking and the public couldn’t believe what they just heard. At this meeting and in an apparent effort to defuse an accusation of another Brown Act violation the RCSD Board extended the deadline for applications to August 21, 2015 at noon, the following Wednesday they called a special meeting to interview applicants.
On August 26, 2015, at 2:00 PM the RCSD held a closed meeting to interview candidates. Data that I have collected indicates the RCSD Board Members interviewed three candidates: Mr. John Houghton, Mr. Claude Seal and Mr. Ron Smith.
Profiling the Employment Candidates:
I attempted to obtain copies of the submitted resumes, but was denied access to them. That said, based upon internet searches and published news article, here are individual profiles for the three interviewed candidates:
Mr. John Houghton: In addition to overseeing District administrative issues in the wake of his predecessor’s departure; he serves as the Assistant General Manager for the Rosamond Community Services District. His current duties include: General management of distribution system maintenance and related repairs, meter installations, water pressure awareness, water treatment and distribution operations, parks maintenance and graffiti abatement.
Mr. Claude Seal: Served in the past as the Assistant General Manager for the Rosamond Community Services District. His former duties at the time he served mirrors those duties as listed for Mr. Houghton. Having served as a mentor for Mr. Houghton, he is generally held in high esteem by the RCSD staff. Claude served the RCSD for 17 years, first as a consulting engineer and then as assistant general manager from 2005 to 2008. Prior to departing RCSD, in 2008, Mr. Seal clashed with brother of current RCSD Director Landsgaard, Daniel, over the board’s action in conducting the search for a general manager and contract awarded in a closed session in alleged violation of the Brown Act.
Mr. Ron Smith: (at the time of the interview) Currently serves the City of Lancaster, California as a City Councilman. He has been a councilman since 2006, after serving five years on the Lancaster Planning Commission, four years as the elected chairman. He is a retired Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy and served 13 years in the Antelope Valley. Smith was awarded “Deputy of the Year” in 1994 and 1999.
Smith is currently an instructor at Antelope Valley College where he was elected to and served two years on the Academic Senate, and was awarded “Adjunct Faculty of the Year” for 2005.
His educational background includes Howard Taft School of Law, graduate studies in law; California State University Bakersfield, graduate studies in education; Savannah College of Art and Design, graduate studies in graphic design; Bachelor of Arts, California State University Northridge; and Associates of Science, Cypress College.
Smith has served nine years with the Boy Scouts of America and was chairman for the first annual American Heroes Dinner. He was elected and served as chairman for the 36th Assembly District Central Committee, Republican Party of Los Angeles County. He has also served as chairman for the Antelope Valley Crime Task Force and Citizen’s for a Safer Community.
Smith is an award-winning wildlife artist who conducts nature walks at the Lancaster Prime Desert Woodlands Preserve.
[Editor’s note: the following information was added after Mr. Smith was seated as RCSD General Manager.]
Mr. Smith holds many ties to political heavy hitters, his personal Facebook page highlights visit to Sacramento and features images from several high-profile meet and greets with former Speaker of the House of United States Representatives Newt Gingrich and current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
On September 16, 2015, Mr. Smith unofficially accompanied Olaf Landsgaard to the CNN Reagan Library debate in the Reagan Library’s Air Force One Pavilion on Wednesday, September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California.
Ms. Burns Calls It a “Deposition”:
On August 21, 2014, I personally questioned each member of this current board as to the qualifications and reasons for hiring Ron Smith over other more qualified candidates. With the exception of Director Glennan, all of the Board members remained silent. In fact, the Legal Counsel took offense to my line of questioning the board and told me, “This is not a deposition…” indicating that the Board Members did not have to answer my questions.
In other public interviews and hearings (to include the Rosamond Municipal Advisory Council on November 19, 2015) the board members and Mr. Smith continue to claim that the hire was made based upon experience and knowledge of managing municipal functions (with a heavy emphasis on a background in water delivery).
The Position Description and Key Requirements:
According to the district’s general manager job description, “qualified candidates for the position should have knowledge of operations, services and activities of a comprehensive operation and maintenance of water treatment facilities and related distribution systems, along with program development, administration, budget preparation, and training and performance evaluation”.
Educational recommendation is that of a, “bachelor’s degree with major course work in business administration, engineering or a related field and seven years increasingly responsible experience involving the operation and maintenance of water treatment facilities and related distribution systems including four years of administrative and supervisory responsibility or an equivalent combination of education and experience.”
The Compensation Package:
According to the “tentative contract posted on the RCSD website, compensation includes:
(a) Compensation. Employer shall pay Employee a salary of One Hundred Twenty Thousand Dollars ($120,000.00) per year, in accordance with Employer’s regularly established Policies for payroll distribution.
(b) Benefits. Employee shall be entitled to receive benefits as provided to other management employees consistent with the current Employer policies, which policies shall remain subject to modification or elimination as determined by the Employer in its sole discretion. The current benefits to be provided to Employee are as follows but not limited to:
(i) Automobile. Employee shall have the use of a District vehicle, twenty-four (24) hours a day/seven (7) days a week. Employee’s use of such automobile shall generally be limited to District business and will include commuting. Any election or revocation pursuant to this section shall not be effective until the first (1st) day of the next month.
(ii) CALPERS. Unless otherwise prohibited, Employee shall be eligible for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CALPERS) and the Employer shall pay one hundred percent (100%) of both the Employer’s and Employee’s contribution to CALPERS.
(iii) Expenses. Employer shall reimburse Employee for reasonable travel and other business expenses incurred by Employee in the performance of his duties, in accordance with Employer’s policies, as they may be amended in Employer’s sole discretion.
(iv) Vacation. Employee shall accrue vacation time as per District policy. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Employee shall be credited with (5) days accrued vacation time as of the effective date of this Agreement. Employee shall give the Board of Directors advance notice of foreseeable absences from his duties including the reasons, anticipated dates and duration of any such absence.
(v) Administrative Leave. Administrative leave of five (5) days annually.
(vi) Sick Leave. Employee shall accrue sick leave as per District policy.
(vii) Holidays. Employee shall be entitled to the District’s standard holidays per RCSD policy.
(viii) Major Medical/Health Coverage. Employee shall be entitled to the District’s standard Major Medical/Health coverage as per District policy.
(ix) 457 Plan. While Employee may participate in District’s “457 Plan,” he shall not be eligible for any District contribution to that plan.
There was a fourth (unknown) applicant not called for an interview, primarily because the application didn’t meet the noon filing deadline.
On August 26, 2015, at the 7:00PM Regular Board meeting, Director Glennan asked the public to please provide input as to the characteristics they would like to see in a General Manager.
On Friday, 28 August 2015, RCSD staffers posted an agenda on the RSCD website. The posted agenda included an item to formally offer the position of General Manager to Ron Smith (Meeting Agenda.)
If you haven’t paid attention to what you just read, let me bring it to your attention.
On August 26, 2015, shortly after 3:00 PM the RCSD Board finished interviewing employee candidates and less than 48 hours later, at 2:49 PM on Friday, 28 August 2015, RCSD staffers posted an agenda on the RSCD website. The posted agenda included an item to formally offer the position of General Manager to Mr. Ron Smith (web reference).
I do realize that the RSCD legal counsel is on track to make over $400,000 this year in her work with the RCSD; but, common sense tells me that lawyers do not typically act that quickly, so I suspect the appointment of Ron Smith was a preconceive act probably a result of meetings held between RCSD Board Members out of the purview of the public. In short, it is my opinion, this employment decision is the result of a violation of the Brown Act and should be negated.
If you need anything else to convince you, please let me remind you of the incident on August 18, 2015, during Public Comments at a Special “Closed” Meeting to discuss the hiring of a new General Manager, Olaf Landsgaard had to be ordered to stop responding to public comments by Board President Ed MacKay.
The particular incident centered around Olaf’s response when someone from the public audience in attendance asked, “Do you have any idea of who you are going to hire?” Olaf blurted out, “We have someone in mind.” At the point, realizing that Olaf may have unintentionally provided evidence of another Brown Act violation, Ed MacKay slammed the gavel down several times and yelled, “Point of order! Point of Order!” Olaf immediately stopped talking.
Concerns with the Offer:
The benefits package states in paragraph (b) (ii): “CALPERS. Unless otherwise prohibited, Employee shall be eligible for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CALPERS) and the Employer shall pay one hundred percent (100%) of both the Employer’s and Employee’s contribution to CALPERS.” The Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA) and related Public Employees’ Retirement Law (PERL) amendments (AB 340 and AB 197) were signed by the Governor on September 12, 2012. Collectively referred to as Pension Reform, the provisions of the new law took effect as of January 1, 2013. As a result, employers are prohibited from paying the employees contribution. In this case, whoever drew up the offer made a mistake that represents a “gift” of an $8,400 benefit to which Mr. Smith is not entitled.
What the Directors Failed to tell us:
An additional fact that was not disclosed by the RCSD Board members at the time of the hiring consideration was that Mr. Ron Smith was a hired (paid) political consultant to the current majority of the RCSD Board Members when they ran for their elected seats on the RCSD Board of Directors.
Beyond the fact that there was no way possible for the RCSD Board members to perform a full background check on the candidates, given the short timeline (previously discussed) from employment candidate search to employment offer.
Equal Employment laws require the posting on employment opportunities by public agencies to be in place for 30 days to allow a full spectrum of potential employees to be interviewed. By rushing the decision to hire Mr. Smith, this Board potentially violated Equal Employment Laws, and denied likely qualified candidates the opportunity to apply and be considered for the position of RCSD General Manager.
I can’t help but be curious as to just how well “the Voice of the Community” candidates actually know the man they selected for the position.
The California Code of Regulations (“CCR”), is the official compilation and publication of the regulations adopted, amended or repealed by state agencies. Fair Political Practices Committee Regulations are located at Title 2, Division 6, Sections 18109-18997, of the CCR.
According to the California Fair Political Practices committee, “A candidate or officeholder who has a controlled committee, or who has raised or spent or will raise or spend $1,000 or more during a calendar year in connection with election to office or holding office. The CA Form 460 is also required if $1,000 or more will be raised or spent during the calendar year at the behest of the officeholder or candidate.”
Having established the legal requirement for filing a CA Form 460, let’s discuss what’s contained on the two CA Form 460’s that I have in my possession. CA Form 460s are also known as Consolidated Campaign Disclosure Forms, (see images 24 – 30, below).
In the first CA Form 460, a key point here is the information listed in Block 3, “Committee Information” on page one of the form (image 24, below) lists “Rosamond’s Voice of the Community” as the filing party for the form.
In the second CA Form 460, a key point here is the information listed in Block 3, “Committee Information” on page one of the form (image 31, below) lists “Taxpayers for southern Kern Unified” as the filing party for the form.
Please note the “Street Address” and “Mailing Address” for both forms (images 24 and 30, below) are the same. Additionally, both forms were filed on the same date (February, 1 2015) and signed by the same person, listed as “Treasurer” Angela Velasco.
IMAGES 24 – 30 Rosamond’s Voice of the Community CA Form 460, Campaign Disclosures.
IMAGES 31 – 36, Taxpayers for southern Kern Unified Campaign Disclosures
By now you are wondering, why I am highlighting these two forms. Having connected both form to the same mailing address, let me ask; “Who lives at 3840 Lupine Road, Rosamond, California?”
According to the documents filed with the RCSD, and readily available on their website, Olaf Landsgaard claims he “owns” property at that specified address (CA Form 700). (See to Images 37 – 41, below) for the complete FPPC California Form 700, “Statement of Financial Interests”.
It’s very important Director Landsgaard is the connecting thread between these two documents.
IMAGES 37 to 41: FPPC California Form 700, “Statement of Financial Interests”.
These two forms (both filed on February 5th, 2015) list the name of Mr. Ron Smith (of 2820 Caruso Lane Lancaster, California) as a PAID CONSULTANT for the Election Committees, identified by ID Number 1372173 “Rosamond’s Voice of the Community” and ID Number 1371994 “Taxpayers for Southern Kern Unified”. Total payments from both forms totals up to $4,000.00.
Uniquely, both of the Committees list the same mailing address located at 3840 Lupine Road, Rosamond, California. It is a documented fact, that Director Landsgaard either lives at / or maintains a residence located at 3840 Lupine Road in Rosamond, California.
When did the Axis plot this action and what does it all mean?
I will offer you a timeline,
August 12, 2015: Mr. Steve Perez was relieved of all RCSD related duties.
August 18, 2015: Landsgaard blurts out, “We have someone in mind.”
August 21, 2015: RCSD Board set the deadline for applications to noon on August 21, 2015.
August 26, 2015: at 2:00 PM the RCSD held a closed meeting to interview candidates.
August 28, 2015: RCSD staffers posted an agenda on the RSCD website. The posted agenda included an item to formally offer the position of General Manager to Mr. Ron Smith and more importantly it the agenda included a finalize copy of the contract that was offered to Mr. Smith.
[Editor’s note: Employment contracts typically require weeks of negotiation and back and forth communication between the parties involves. Amazingly this contract was ready to go with less than three days’ notice. Something is fishy here.]
If you didn’t catch what I just stated, the agenda already had the contract for Ron Smith completely written out and ready for a signature which indicated that they had already met, negotiated and had come to an agreement with Ron Smith. Under normal circumstances when a district hires a General Manager, a background check is performed, a thorough vetting process is completed, and several days or weeks of back and forth discussions on contract language and a chance for Ron Smith to have his legal counsel review the contract before it ever made it to the agenda for approval.
In either case, the reduced timeline between the interview and the offering of the final contract means either they did no vetting or they had been working on this for a long time before he was formally offered the job. In other words, there were just 26 days between the removal of Steve Perez and the Hiring on Ron Smith.
It gets worse:
I suggest to you that since Mr. Ron Smith and Ms. Allison Burns (RCSD Legal Counsel) both attended the very first RCSD Board meeting that the Axis of Olaf officially chaired, there was already a plan concocted to bring a little Lancaster leadership and business practices to the RCSD.
Yes, on December 10, 2014 BEFORE either of them were employed with the RCSD, Mr. Smith and Ms. Burns attended the initial RCSD Board Meeting that took place that evening.
This becomes significant in that the one of the initial official acts of the Axis of Olaf was to fire the previous Legal Counsel John Gibson and replace him with Ms. Burns.
Isn’t an odd coincidence that Ms. Burns would also negotiate the $150K contract for Mr. Smith (an arguably close friend)?
Burns and Smith were invited to attend a meeting in the community where they both would become employees. You see, Ms. Burns and Mr. Smith were co-workers for the City of Lancaster and previously had a working relationship.
At an RCSD Board Meeting on August 26, 2015, the Board convened to announce the hiring of Mr. Ron Smith as the new Interim General Manager. With the short amount of time between the interviews and the announcement of the hire, it is clear that Ms. Alison Burns, the RCSD Legal Counsel had been previously working on the contract negotiations with Mr. Smith. Interestingly, Ms. Burns missed the meeting that night to apparently avoid exposure of the previous negotiations that had taken place.
As a follow-on note, at an RCSD Board Meeting in October 2015 is was made public that Ms. Alison Burns actually played a key role in negotiating and offering the final contract to Mr. Smith.
It is my opinion that the hiring of Mr. Ron Smith is part of a well-orchestrated plan that falls in line with political promises made prior to the firing of Mr. Steve Perez. A plan that benefits: 1) Mr. Smith, by providing him the opportunity for gained political exposure in a district where he fell less than 300 votes short of his goal of State Assemblyman, and; 2) Mr. Landsgaard, by bringing him into alignment with the Republican Party in the ultimate pursuit of higher political office (beyond Rosamond). You see, Ron Smith is a staunch conservative politically aligned with the Tea Party conservatives in the Republican Party. As demonstrated in the previously mentioned jaunt to Simi Valley in September to attend the CNN Reagan Library debate in the Reagan Library’s Air Force One Pavilion on Wednesday, September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California, Mr. Smith supplies inroads into the Republic Party and opens doors for possibly future political motivations of Olaf Landsgaard (by many considered to be a strict Libertarian). Recently I heard Kern County being referred to as the Texas of California. This is because of the overall strength of the Republican Party with high roller names like Buck McKeon, Kevin McCarthy and others… Governor, (at the time) Arnold Schwarzenegger allegedly even maintained a romantic connection to Bakersfield.
I submit to you, it is my opinion that having served as a “paid employee” of the political campaign that swept MacKay, Landsgaard, and Shingledecker into office renders Mr. Ron Smith ineligible to serve as RCSD General Manager.
Olaf Spills the beans at lunch:
On November 18, 2015, RCSD Board Member, Director Olaf Landsgaard was witnessed (and recorded) in public at a local eatery telling a long-term Rosamond resident (Mr. Mike Escalante) the following.
“We [the RCSD] are moving ahead so fast, now that we have our own guy in there. With actually no experience or not a lot of knowledge and you know, no knowledge of what goes down in Rosamond, he’s just boom boom boom, “This is something I don’t understand, why we don’t just take care of this?” Well, we get him to take care of it and he takes care of it. He doesn’t get hung up on something you know. It’s kind of like what I would say when I was at the [school] district, when i would Say i can’t do anything with this insurance claim blah blah blah because of this that or the other, and [unintelligible] well why not… then [unintelligible] I can’t get the money out of this…instead of figuring out how not to do something…that’s what he’s there for, when I talked to Ron Smith the other day he was complaining about something, he was like, “Now what do I do?” I said, you got to keep moving forward, or you die.”
The above quote goes against everything that has been publicly stated by the RCSD Board concerning the reasons for the hiring of Mr. Ron Smith.
In reviewing Ron Smith’s public service profile, there are no instances of significant experience in managing a Community Services District, much less a water provisioning entity. This lack of demonstrable experience resulted in several members of the Rosamond community expressing concern over his potential hiring. Again, the Majority of the current RCSD Board (Directors Landsgaard, MacKay, Shingledecker and Wallis) stood firmly in the opinion that Mr. Smith was qualified and possessed the required experience for the job for which he was a candidate, and ultimately hired.
Oh, and another thing.
Please refer to Images 24 and 25, above for this brief discussion. Is the Aero Sports Skypark, Corp. listed on Images 24 and 25 as donating a total of $3000.00 to the “Rosamond’s Voice of the Community” committee the same entity listed on page 57 of this document? If so, it is one of the (no less than) 5 corporations turned up in the document (See image 42, below).
IMAGE 42: AERO SPORTS SKYPARK, Corp. Information located found at: http://kepler.sos.ca.gov/
IMAGE 43: MOUTH OF HIDDEN VALLEY, LLC Information located at: http://kepler.sos.ca.gov/
IMAGE 44: AVICO, INC. Information as found at: http://kepler.sos.ca.gov/
IMAGE 45: KARL’S HARDWARE, INC. Information as found at: http://kepler.sos.ca.gov/
In referring back to Image 24, you will also notice that someone listed as “M. MacKay” donated $1,100.00 to the “Rosamond’s Voice of the Community” committee.
I wonder if it is ethical or even legal to donate money to one’s own political campaign or the “combined campaign of the MacKay, Landsgaard and Shingledecker Alliance? I find it interesting that $3000.00 split fairly evenly across three candidates. A darker side of me makes me wonder if Ed and Dennis feel indebted to Olaf because of that donation. I guess $3,000 donated by Olaf and $1,100 by Ed and $4,000 paid to Ron for “consulting” goes a long way in small town politics.
Immediately after being hired, I approached Ron Smith to sincerely congratulate him on his new job and at the same time challenge him to “be and independent spirit and ‘his own man’”. He stopped me mid-sentence and told me. “My loyalties lay with these three”, pointing over his right shoulder at the empty dais behind him. He continued, “These three represent ‘The Voice of the Community’, they run this place, I only carry out their action items and programs.” I am still trying to de-conflict what I heard, was Ron Smith referring to the majority vote of the board or was he referring to Ed, Olaf, and Dennis? I guess the answer to that remains to be seen.
The alliance of “Rosamond’s Voice of the Community” and Mr. Ron Smith effectively transforms Rosamond from the “Gateway to Progress” to the Gateway to the Republican Party”.