On less than a one-day notice, the Newberry CSD called a
on February 12, 2020, at 6 P.M. at the Newberry Springs' CSD building.
Director Larry Clark was once again MIA having also missed
the previous general meeting.
Chairman Robert Springer and directors Vickie Paulsen,
Jack Unger, and Paula Deel were present.
In the audience were only six community residents who were
able to attend despite the very late notice. Before the meeting,
in speaking with director Paula Deel, she said that the meeting was called
by the CSD's attorney. Deel would not disclose for what purpose. This
lack of CSD transparency has been creating a great divide between the CSD
and the community.
The audience had an opportunity to speak prior to the board
going into a closed session where the board spoke via speakerphone with their
The public speaking was led off by myself addressing the
concern that the board might cave-in at the Superior Court ordered Mandatory
Settlement Conference scheduled for March 9th. As some possible mitigation
factors have been discussed in the past that included project set-backs from
the roads and possible tree lines, I expressed that such would have no
effect on stopping fugitive silica dust.
Carcinogenic silica dust can be 1/100th the size of a grain
of sand. It easily becomes airborne in winds and can quickly rise
hundreds of feet over trees and stay suspended in the air for days.
I also spoke of my concern for the average Newberry household
and the emphasis that some directors seem to be placing more concern on representing
the interest of a few large alfalfa farmers. The farmers have been crying
crocodile tears after having over-drafted our residential water table and are
now facing severe ramp downs.
A couple of the vocal farmers, at least one who doesn't even
live in Newberry, favor selling out to the solar farm as a community exit strategy.
A couple of the directors seem to feel sorrier for these affluent farmers
than the couple thousand Newberry residents who have their families in Newberry.
In the CSD's attorney prepared
before the Superior Court, the Friends of Newberry Springs are co-Plaintiffs and
Petitioners, and are identified as an unincorporated association comprising
"of residents and property owners in Newberry Springs dedicated to protecting
the quality of life and environmental health in the area."
I requested that the board allow myself (Ted Stimpfel), Kathy
Ridler of the Newberry Springs Property Owners Association, Bob Berkman of the
Newberry based CEQA-Now, and possibly others represent the Friends of Newberry
Springs. The board members may have a legal conflict of interest in representing
the "Friends." The Newberry citizens' group that is identified in the Writ should
I made a specific request to the board that while in communication
with their attorney, that they, "Make it happen."
Further speaking was Gaye Burch who made a passionate request
to the board not to mitigate, and Bob Berkman who spoke mostly on how Clearway
Energy will not have the capability to control fugitive silica dust during the
estimated 5-year construction period.
Robert Shaw also spoke against a board settlement of the appeal.
From the meeting's flag salute to the end of the public's input,
it was 20-minutes. The board then convened to private session for 53-minutes.
Upon reopening the public session, Chairman Robert Springer
simply announced that "No action taken... move to adjourn."
I interrupted, requesting a report. The board refused,
claiming attorney-client privilege. Chairman Robert Springer shut down
the meeting. This resulted in others in the audience angerly claiming
contempt from the board which further escalated for a heated 30-seconds.
Director Jack Unger got particularly worked-up over complaints of the board's lack of
The arrogance of the CSD towards the audience was indeed contemptuous
and should have been better handled. At a minimum, Chairman Robert Springer
could have stated the topic of the subject matter discussed without disclosing
any privileged details. Instead, the audience was slapped with cold disrespect.
The CSD board definitely did not want to reveal anything about
their closed session.
Under California law, attorney-client communications and
attorney work product can be held as privileged. This is necessary as
attorneys are usually involved in sensitive matters involving public entities
being sued or employee matters. In this case, the citizens have the CSD
representing them. The audience was left wondering what is going on
that the public's right to knowledge of the CSD's workings should be outweighed
by a necessity for privilege.
If the CSD is not going to settle at the Mandatory Settlement
Conference, there is no true reason for privilege.
If the CSD is planning to settle, and a settlement strategy is
being planned, then yes, the attorney-client privilege is necessary to prevent
the County from having prior knowledge.
Or, has Clearway Energy secretly stepped in with a monetary
offer to the CSD to sweeten a settlement. Some board members are
associated with community organizations that could greatly benefit them from large
donations flowing to the Chamber or NSEDA or a new community center that directors
Paula Deel, Jack Unger, and Vickie Paulsen have been highly promoting to
demonstrate their worth. Such offers selling-out the community would
naturally warrant a call for secrecy. Is that the reason for the attorney-client
privilege being called?
As the CSD board members continue to trample on open transparency,
community minds will wonder.
There is a needed balance between a public entity's privacy privilege
and the public's State constitutional right to know the workings of their representatives.
What is currently underway does not give the community confidence in their CSD board
which is looking more like the corruption of the County.