Attorneys for the Oakdale Groundwater Alliance have asked a Stanislaus County Superior Court to dismiss four causes of actions from a lawsuit they originally filed against the Oakdale Irrigation District earlier this year. The causes of action, numbers two through five, centered around Director Gary Osmundson’s participation and voting in the district’s On-Farm Conservation Program, accusing him of a conflict of interest and other illegalities.
Osmundson all along has said as an OID customer, state guidelines allowed him to participate and he had checked with both OID and his personal attorneys for a legal opinion prior to voting on the program.
“We elected to tone the heat down,” said Robert Frobose, one of the plaintiffs, adding that they no longer wanted OID to “waste” taxpayer dollars defending Osmundson. “Our lawsuit is stepping out of the focus on Gary.”
Frobose said that the California Fair Political Practices Commission’s investigation into the matter with Osmundson that they earlier filed motivated them to drop the actions.
“We only have so much resources and time and want to protect water and our environment,” Frobose said. “We want to center on those issues.”
When contacted, Osmundson said he was pleased with the actions being dismissed.
“I’ve never been sued before and am fine with it being dropped, but it would have been nice to have a judge say ‘you’ve done nothing wrong.’”
Osmundson said he’s had out-of-pocket costs and will be having discussions with his attorney about exploring options for recovery.
“They shouldn’t be able to make these types of allegations,” Osmundson said.
OID General Manager Steve Knell questioned the timing of the dismissal request because both OID and Director Osmundson’s legal staff days earlier had filed discovery requests against the plaintiffs.
“Those actions by OID and Osmundson were seeking the facts behind the allegations,” Knell said. “(We asked for) Emails, texts, phone records, letters, communication, etcetera and dates of when they knew and what they knew. These filings also pointed out the frivolousness of their causes of action.”
Knell said OID has been stating all along that the suit was all about local politics and had nothing to do about substance. He felt that as the case developed, it was becoming evident.
“So the question becomes; is it that the plaintiffs realized that they had no substance to their claims all along or, is it they did not want to open the door of transparency to who and what is behind this lawsuit?” Knell stated.
The course of the lawsuit has seen a plethora of attention in the court from OID initially getting a ruling in their favor on May 4 declining to halt a controversial sale, two OID directors, Gail Altieri and Linda Santos, who had cast dissenting votes, then providing sworn declarations to the opposing counsel, a reversal and ruling in favor of the plaintiffs halting the sale and requiring an environmental report the following week, and a restraining order issued in June against Altieri and Santos barring them from lawsuit discussions.