Opinion » Shredder

Oops, they did it again ... and again


Everybody makes mistakes—it’s human nature—but if you keep blowing it over and over again, sorry, man, but it’s on you.

I hate to beat a dead horse, but Lynda and Stewart Resnick—owners of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, Fiji Water, and Justin Vineyards & Winery—are still alive and spinning their involvement in the bulldozing of a massive stand of native oak trees on their newest property in Paso Robles. 

It turns out this wasn’t the first time the Resnicks killed native trees to plant more grapes—the big difference is last time there were no aerial photos to go viral on social media. Shortly after the couple acquired Justin, vineyard manager Paul Kaselionis authorized the clearing of 100 acres of oaks … and then screwed the guy that he hired to cut them. Did I mention Paul was awarded the company’s Employee of the Year in 2011, the year of the clear-cutting? I bet that reserved parking place and wall placard were a sweet, sweet reward for raping the land and screwing over a local small-business man.

Kaselionis hired Keith Garl’s A-1 Tree Service of Nipomo, which originally quoted $540,000 to cut and clear the timber but negotiated the price down to $200,000 with the understanding that Garl would cut the trees and take the lumber and market and sell it himself. Apparently after the trees were cut but before he could transport the wood, Garl was fired, so he sued, eventually winning a $444,112 judgment against the winery and the Resnicks. Ka-pow!

So let me get this straight, Lynda and Stew (do you mind if I called you Stew?), in 2012 and ’13, you and your law team fought a hard battle against Garl, trying to countersue, and you lost nearly half a million bucks on that tree-cutting debacle, but you weren’t paying attention to what was happening on the same property this time around? The real culprits were your “local team” and their “absolutely unacceptable lapses of judgment,” eh? Yeah, right. Isn’t it great to have a “local team” you can throw under the bus whenever it’s convenient?

What about that time in 2013 when you built four reservoirs on your El Pomar Drive property, drilled all those wells to fill them, and then planted your largest vineyard, smack dab in the middle of a water crisis? You had your Fiji Water Chief Operating Officer Jerry Joye keeping an eye on the process and attending public meetings with your boy Kaselionis sitting side by side watching the proceedings. But sure, despite your pattern of acquiring properties and doing whatever’s necessary to expand your vineyards, you were ignorant of the most recent event. Sorry, asshats, but it’s going to take more than a disingenuous press release feigning ignorance and expressing shock for locals to think you’re anything more than vile opportunists who care nothing about the environment or your neighbors.

Meanwhile down in Arroyo Grande city politics, the City Manager Shuffle continues. Back in November of 2014, longtime manager Steve Adams got the heave-ho after he and Community Development Director Teresa McClish were discovered together in City Hall late at night on July 3 (Nothing to see here. Move along.). City politics had been described as “toxic” ever since, and the switch to a new manager was supposed to alleviate the problems. 

Dianne Thompson took Adams’ position, but Mayor Jim Hill and Councilmember Tim Brown found working with Thompson to be unfruitful, which they stated publicly in government sessions and later on a local talk radio program, leading the city’s insurance carrier to issue a warning that such talk could be construed as derogatory and lead to a lawsuit. Bye-bye, Dianne! 

Arroyo Grande Public Works Director Geoff English has been named interim city manager. Good luck, buddy! I’m sure it’s going to work out just swell!

And talking about management shuffle, nobody’s got nothing on the Los Osos Community Services District (LOCSD), which changes general managers more often than I change my Underoos™. Remember Susan Morrow? She replaced, W. Dan Gilmore, who was described as “the perfect fit,” until he wasn’t, and only lasted for seven months. Before Morrow came along to solve all their problems, Mitch Cooney served as the interim GM for a few minutes. 

Kathy Kivley took over for Morrow, but then came under fire for allegedly taking too many vacation days … plus that thing about her shady accounting. Apparently, she effed-up the books so badly that current interim general manager Peter Kampa, a sort of hired gun to help small government organizations through turmoil, said he needed to hire an outside accountant to sort through the mess. I’m no mathematician, but that’s five GMs in four years!

And guess what? The water system has tested too high for chromium and there’s ongoing seawater intrusion as well. Apparently, the board of directors can’t seem to function, and now they’re talking about a possible 47 percent rate hike because users conserved so much water that revenues aren’t covering costs, but it’s not clear what numbers will specifically trigger the rate hike, so WTF? The LOCSD stinks more than leaking septic tank, which I bet a lot of Los Osos residents miss compared to this ongoing clusterfuck.

It’s a problem that seems to be going around … and around. 

The Shredder learns from its mistakes … OK, not really. Send ideas and comments to shredder@newtimesslo.com.


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