After breaches of confidentiality in closed session regarding a lawsuit, sworn declarations to the plaintiffs’ attorney, and public bashing on social media by two of its directors, the Oakdale Irrigation District filed a lawsuit against Directors Linda Santos and Gail Altieri seeking a temporary restraining order to keep them from strategy sessions surrounding litigation.
The two directors’ actions, and the surrounding litigation, has been a hot bed concerning the district’s On-Farm Conservation Program where Santos and Altieri, who had cast dissenting votes, provided sworn declarations in May to plaintiff attorneys from an April lawsuit.
Farmers Robert Frobose and Louis Brichetto acting as the “Oakdale Groundwater Alliance” are suing to stop the On-Farm Conservation Program.
The June 28 lawsuit filed by the district alleges that Santos “is motivated in part by her personal and business relationship with Petitioner Frobose and Brichetto” and that Santos and Frobose have a business relationship where Santos receives compensation regarding Frobose leasing Santos owned land.
The lawsuit declaration also identifies Facebook social media postings on a site known as “OID Watchdogs” where an April 5 posting by “Linda Santos for OID Director” quotes OID General Manager Steve Knell using the term “baggage.” The district contends the term/quote was from an April 5 closed session discussion pertaining to potential or anticipated litigation.
After Santos was confronted about the release in a subsequent June 7 closed session meeting, the district states the Facebook post was then edited to conceal potential Brown Act violations.
The district contends that controversy has arisen between Santos and Altieri in their ability to perform their elected duties and a conflict of interest exists with them to the pending litigation and its subsequent defense discussions with OID attorneys.
“Plantiff further contends that it cannot meet with Special Water Counsel to strategize in defense of the Pending Litigation with Directors Altieri and Santos present,” the declaration states. “The confidential communications will be compromised if Directors Altieri and Santos, as opponents to the District in the lawsuit, are present.”
It also states that Santos has failed and refused to disclose the nature of her relationship with Frobose and Brichetto.
The district seeks to have both Altieri and Santos recused from matters surrounding the Frobose-Brichetto litigation and wants the court to make a determination. OID attorneys are asking for a temporary restraining order to keep Santos and Altieri from voting and discussing closed session items regarding the litigation.
According to OID representatives, the case has been assigned to Judge John Freeland and the court hearing on the request is anticipated to be the week of July 5.