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Wu: Sanitary district case built on old grudges

April 28, 2012|By Jack Wu

Well, when Fitzpatrick was elected to the board, their legal counsel, who has not changed or been out to bid since 1995, gave the board his legal opinion that there's a "good chance" that Fitzpatrick's appointed commission seat could be "incompatible" with his elected seat.

But the board did nothing about it, and business went on as usual, after all, Costa Mesa City Councilman Gary Monahan was also on the Sanitary board at the same time, so why couldn't a planning commissioner be on both simultaneously as well?

All the while, Fitzpatrick kept grinding away at the other directors: Why won't they go out to bid for trash hauling? Why won't they go out to bid for legal services, etc.? After all, going out to bid ensures that the taxpayers will get the best deal, right?

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This grinding came to a head in the fall of 2011 when, according to Sanitary Board President Bob Ooten, "Fitzpatrick announced that he was going to get two more people elected in 2012 [to replace Director Art Perry and Director Jim Ferryman]" and "that's why the legal action started."

At Perry's insistence, the board hired another law firm, Meyers Nave, to provide a second opinion, not caring "what it costs," according to the agency's November minutes, with Meyers Nave providing the same opinion in February 2012 as the board received in late 2010.

But this time they decided to pursue the issue to forcibly remove Fitzpatrick.

While Ooten has requested that the directors contribute to the legal bills for this internal conflict, the rest of the board refused to contribute to the subsequent legal action, letting the taxpayers pay.

So now the board is embroiled in this internal lawsuit, using taxpayers' dollars in a race to kick Fitzpatrick out before he can get Perry and Ferryman voted out.

But what would you do, where would you have been if you were on this board? Would you be on the side of keeping status quo and not going out to bid for trash hauling since 1944, or would you be on the side of trying to save taxpayers' dollars by going out to bid at least every once decade or so?

The board is unwilling to try to save the taxpayers' money by going out to bid, but have no problem spending it because of personal grudges.

I think they'd be trying to kick me out too.

It seems to me that the only losers in this case will be the Costa Mesa and Newport Beach taxpayers.

JACK WU is an accountant who lives in Newport Beach and practices in Costa Mesa. He is a longtime Republican Party loyalist and a volunteer campaign treasurer for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa). His column runs Sundays on the Daily Pilot Forum page. He can be reached at jack@wubell.com.

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