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Los Osos interest group privy to secret CSD agenda

Lisa Schicker cries foul at irregular access to information

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If the Los Osos Community Services District (CSD) could just get through five minutes of a meeting without a personal attack on a citizen or a board member’s face turning red with rage, it would be a day for the history books. But instead it’s just business as usual.

In the latest twist of small-town subterfuge, Board Director Lisa Schicker is accusing the CSD of shuffling its confidential agenda without notifying her or her likeminded colleague, Julie Tacker. Not only were Schicker and Tacker uninformed of the postponement of some key agenda items from March 17 to April 7, Schicker said, but somehow their political adversaries, the Save the Dream (STD) group, had announced the items in their newsletter.

Schicker explained that she had been instructed by general manager Bruce Buel not to share the contents of the draft agenda for last week’s meeting with anyone. Having honored the board’s request, she was doubly surprised to learn that the agenda had not just been changed, she said, but that someone had shared those changes with the STD.

“They knew about it, and I didn’t,� Schicker said.

One of these items involved a motion requesting to wave interest on a loan from the state revolving fund for the wastewater project. The approval of this request would dramatically reduce the cost of the sewer, and thereby increase community support for the contentious downtown project.

In its third newsletter, dated March 9, STD announced that this zero-interest loan would save the community $25 million. That newsletter calls on all Los Ososians to attend the April 7 meeting and ask the board to vote yes on this cost-cutting resolution.

Pandora Nash-Karner had a simple explanation of where she got her information.

“I just called the CSD to verify the facts before publication. I also thought [the item] was on the 17th [of March],� she said. “Anyone can call and verify that information.�

Yet Schicker maintains that the board has instructed her that the draft agendas are “not for publication or discussion.�

Bruce Buel could not be reached for comment and was in court all morning on Wednesday, where the CSD was filing a demurrer to dismiss a lawsuit of the Concerned Citizens of Los Osos vs. the LOCSD and the State Coastal Commission.

In an ongoing quest to uncover public records, Director Schicker has spent several weeks trying to obtain a copy of Hensley’s spending records from fiscal year 2004-05. In the past nine months, Hensley has made numerous trips to meetings in Monterey, Washington, D.C., and Southern California on behalf of the CSD.

“Every other board member has a credit card file — with a zero balance or a spending record,� Schicker explained. “It’s quite possible that Gordon [Hensley] didn’t spend anything, but he’s got files for every other year he’s been there.�

The general manager’s office has repeatedly asked Schicker to stop wasting its time, and told her that there are no such records. Buel insists that his office is too busy to waste its valuable time on these frivolous requests. But Schicker explained that it would only take a few minutes to call and request copies of the zero-balance credit card bills, and it should be worth those few minutes to prove to the community that Director Schicker is being frivolous and unreasonable.

Directors Hensley and LeGros and President Gustafson are all three the target of a board recall campaign. STD leads the opposition to this recall. General Manager Buel is expected to remain neutral on the issue, although he has a history of collaborating with Pandora Nash-Karner, who directs the pro-sewer, “move forward� interest group. Tacker and Schicker have also distanced themselves from the recall movement, but the two minority members enjoy wide support from the recall proponents.

Gail McPherson, one of the chief
organizers of the recall, has reported that the campaign has already collected more than the 2,000 signatures needed to put the initiative on the ballot. As the April 15 deadline approaches, McPherson says that the group is continuing to collect signatures as a safety cushion before turning in the petitions.

McPherson has always maintained that “The recall is not about the sewer,� but that this is just one example of poor planning and fiduciary irresponsibility on the part of the current CSD.

Staff Writer Jeff Hornaday is up to his ears
in effluent. Contact him at jhornaday@newtimesslo.com.

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