According to Black’s Law Dictionary Nolo contendere is a Latin phrase meaning “I will not contest it”, a plea in a criminal case which has a similar legal effect as pleading guilty. The principal difference between a plea of guilty and a plea of nolo contendere is that the latter may not be used against the defendant in a civil action based upon the same acts.
Nolo Contendere is often used in plea bargaining where the defendant agrees to accept a lesser charge rather than risk being convicted on the much more serious charge. [Reckless driving vs DUI (Driving Under the Influence); theft rather than burglary; providing false information vs perjury under oath, etc.]
MARIPOSA COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT 9/8/11
0950hrs Thursday morning: recent speculation regarding suspected misconduct of a director serving on the Lake Don Pedro Community Services District Board appears to have been justified, indeed, confirmed. The Honorable F. Dana Walton, Superior Court Judge of Mariposa County heard the case in the historic courthouse while District Attorney Bob Brown personally represented the People of the State of California in the matter.
Judge Walton, following a short consultation with the District Attorney and defense attorney, accepted Keefe’s plea of nolo contendere to Penal Code Section 148.9, providing false information to a peace officer. Keefe quietly acknowledged giving up certain rights and agreed to a $1,000 fine; two years of probation; inability to run for public office during the probation period; and resignation as a director on the LDPCSD Board.
GRAND JURY REPORT & REFERRAL
The 2010-2011 Mariposa County Grand Jury Final Report had much to say about the LDPCSD including that it had referred information to the District Attorney’s Office. [Grand Jury Report on home page top menu bar.] This referral to the District Attorney came after “under oath interviews” of CSD directors Emery Ross, Vicki Keefe, Mark Skoien, Bill Kinsella and Lew Richardson and Interim General Manager Dan Tynan. Specific details of that referral have never been made public. The directors and IGM were also admonished by the Grand Jury not to discuss information obtained from the interview with anyone not participating.
During the same time period of a routine Grand Jury onsite inspection of the CSD, the Board was ensnarled in a matter regarding suspected misconduct of a director who had purportedly approached the Interim General Manager and advocated the termination of an employee. NOTE: The CSD is currently involved in other wrongful termination lawsuits filed years ago that have yet to be resolved.
REFUSAL TO INVESTIGATE
Then President, Emery Ross, refused to investigate the matter and was supported in that position by then Vice President Mark Skoien and Director Vicki Keefe who voted to remove the request for investigation from the February 22nd, 2011 meeting agenda. No investigation was ever conducted by the board. Directors Bill Kinsella and Lew Richardson objected arguing it was the Board’s responsibility to investigate under existing CSD policy and to censure the director if misconduct was confirmed. Keefe had repeatedly refused to discuss questions of whether she was the subject of a Grand Jury investigation or if billing through the CSD attorney was improperly made for personal benefit regarding criminal charges.
Although the exact circumstances leading to Keefe’s plea bargain are not known, the following exchange at the February 22nd 2011 meeting appears strangely prophetic:
Director Kinsella: “If you have malfeasance and misfeasance in office, that’s a crime, and it can be investigated by the Grand Jury and a District Attorney. The end result could be removal from office.”
President Ross: “I doubt it. They won’t do anything.”
Director Kinsella: “I don’t care whether you doubt it or not, Emery. It’s there. The allegation was made and this board has to investigate it. It’s that simple.”
MINUTES STILL UNAPPROVED
The February 22, 2011 meeting Minutes still have yet to be approved. Directors Ross, Skoien and Keefe previously objected to their approval believing the verbatim transcript of DIRECTOR COMMENTS did not constitute minutes. Directors Kinsella and Richardson contend the minutes have remained unapproved because they clearly evidence the refusal to properly investigate suspected director misconduct and taking corrective action if it were confirmed. Questions remain as to what effect unapproved meeting minutes might have on the recent CSD audit.
Vicki Keefe’s resignation was received by the CSD office and effective this date.
My best to you and yours, Lew