Wait a Minute, Mister Postman!
I was very surprised to see a series of official documents regarding issues between the CCSD and Governmental agencies appear on Social Media within hours of them being sent. Odd, I thought. How on earth did these posters get these documents so quickly? They weren’t any of the addressees, nor any of those cc’d. They weren’t mentioned in the body of any of the official documents. So why am I so interested in how the document got posted so quickly? Good question, multi-part response.
Learn Your Lessons Well
First, some color. Back in my corporate days I would find myself in litigations and mediations around a host of issues – business, technical, contractual, etc. In one particular case I was in a mediation session in Chattanooga, Tennessee. One of the attorneys from the other side was an older guy, right out of Central Casting. White haired, hounds tooth sport jacket, bow tie, round spectacles, probably smoked a pipe while sipping sweet tea. Behind the fatherly appearance was a legal lion. One phrase he used, in his soft southern drawl, was “this document is quite remarkable. Quite remarkable indeed!” I knew I was in for a battle with a very capable opponent.
That simple phrase comes to mind as I think about the most recent chapter in the ongoing drama “As The Water Churns.”
I read them several times so I would have a decent grasp on the issues. Most of the issues seem to be administrative violations, with late and/or incomplete reporting topping the list. Why is this happening?
- Staffing issue?
- Onerous and redundant requirements?
- Lack of expertise?
- Lack of understanding of the reporting requirements?
- Clerical errors?
- Prioritization where the reporting was superseded by more critical tasks?
The issues raised around the rapid rise of water levels in the brine pond are clearly a concern, and highlight the risks associated with a failure to properly address the root causes. As the report correctly pointed out, the a major contributing factor was out of the district’s control, but the remedy belongs to the district and the agencies responsible for the land and culvert that caused the problem.
These issues need to be addressed, and it is imperative they are addressed fully, however long that might take.
The language of the notices seemed to be overly dramatic and heavy-handed, designed to be a very loud shot across the bow. A subsequent report in The Cambrian seems to support this observation.
I heard it’s Conspiracy Theory month. Here’s mine.
It’s quite remarkable that an official series of communications from a regulatory agency to another agency, ‘cc’d to members and staff from additional agencies, wound up in the possession of three citizens not affiliated with any of those agencies, not on any part of the distribution/cc list, and with no indication that they were in any way party to the matters being discussed. Well, I thought, these documents are public record, and can be shared (after proper review) with members of the public. Yet here they were, posted to a Social Media Page, mere hours after they were sent.
Even with everything moving at previously unheard of speed, it would be nearly impossible for a citizen to draw up a FOIA request, submit it to any or all of the parties named or copied, have the request go through the appropriate vetting process (especially since there are specific threats of penalties that could reasonably require a response and discussion between/among the parties) before the information is released to a citizen. Even if a miracle FOIA event happened, an individual would likely have to know that such a series of notices were being prepared and sent, who was preparing them, and who would be getting them.
Quite remarkable indeed.
I thought about it some more, recalling the times that staff and board members raised the issue of members of the public using the agencies to harass and obstruct Cambria’s efforts to successfully complete the SWF project. I thought about the General Manager’s repeated comments, the resignation of a key employee, the stories I’d heard from other Cambrians about the many “off the books” interactions between citizens and staff members of several agencies, including the Water Board and the Coastal Commission.
What’s the likelihood of these “off the books” interactions being discovered by a FOIA request?
I though about the many letters – including the ones submitted through EIR Review, and those published in papers like the Sierra Club newsletter, and compared them to the writings and public comments of several of the prominent opponents. The similarities are quite remarkable – as if the same writer’s hands guided them all.
Finally, here’s a blatant example of agency documents appearing on Facebook, in near real-time, from persons that have no discernible reason to have those documents in that timeframe, and the theories of collusion, obstruction and double-dealing seemed more credible.
Shine The Light
If there are people in positions of authority – or staffers with inside information – who are inappropriately sharing documents, giving access to confidential or sensitive information, or otherwise assisting people or groups who are deliberately acting with the intent to cause failure, that needs to be investigated and dealt with. That goes for anyone – CCSD Board members, Coastal Commission staffers, Water Board folks…
This is a reasonable position, and one that should be appreciated by the few folks who consistently lob accusations of corruption, collusion and all manner of wrongdoing at the CCSD Board and staff.
It is about everybody’s favorite word – TRANSPARENCY!