Weekender Updater: Of Animal Shelter, a Thief, Groundwater, Water Refunds and More

This weekender you are updatered on: the Orange County Grand Jury's stinging report
on the Orange County Animal Shelter; we being f*ckeder on groundwater; San Juan Capistrano setting aside $4.1 million to refund residents and businesses who paid for water under illegal tiered rates; the prison sentences for an attorney who was blazing on drugs when she caused a collision that killed a bicyclist in Mission Viejo and a private Huntington Beach elementary school's former finance director who embezzled more than $2 million; and Orly Taitz's latest setbacks in federal court in Texas.


OC Animal Care Sued for Allegedly Putting Down Too Many Healthy Pets
Update: Orange County grand jurors this week issued a stinging report on the Orange County Animal Shelter, claiming it is poorly managed and plagued by slumping morale among employees exposed to animal-related diseases. The shelter “has serious problems that have needed attention for many years,” the panel states in the report, adding, “there have been complaints and allegations from a number of sources inside and outside the animal shelter that have focused on the lack of leadership throughout the Orange County Community Resources and Animal Care chain of command. This alleged void in leadership has resulted in either the inability of management to define the problems at hand or, if defined, an unwillingness to correct them.” The Orange County Board of Supervisors reacted with a statement saying the report is flawed and that most deficiencies were long ago corrected.


Update: Remember that cover story from last year about the worsening drought and mis- (or un-management) of groundwater? Turns out We're F*ckeder. About one-third of the world's largest groundwater basins, including California's Central Valley, are being depleted by human consumption, but researchers say there is little accurate data on how much water is left in them, according to a pair of UC Irvine studies released this week. Of the 37 aquifers studied, 21 are at a tipping point where more is being drawn out than is being replenished, and “13 are in really, really bad trouble,” according to Jay Famiglietti, the UCI professor who is also the senior water scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We're kidding ourselves that it's great and everything is fine,” Famiglietti told City News Service. “Our groundwater supply is at risk because we're not managing it properly, and we're acting like we have unlimited water out there, and, of course, that's not true.” He's talking not just about California but points around the world, folks.

San Juan Capistrano Explores Options After Tiered Water Rates Ruled Unconstitutional
Update: The City Council approved a process this week that will have San Juan Capistrano setting aside $4.1 million to refund residents and businesses who paid for water under steep tiers recently deemed illegal by a state appellate court panel. Each of the city's approximately 11,300 water customers must complete a form from City Hall to be refunded for money paid for the city's top tiers. The eligible will have the option of receiving refunds or credit on future water bills. The $4.1 million will be taken from the city's sewer fund and is to be repaid within four years. Meanwhile, the state Attorney General's Office requested June 5 that the California Supreme Court un-publish the April 20 appellate ruling to make it relevant only to San Juan Capistrano and not applicable in cases involving other water agencies. Governor Jerry Brown has said tiered rates are needed to meet mandatory water usage cuts he imposed. California's highest court has not yet responded to the request.


Hasti Fakhrai-Bayrooti, Attorney Who Copped to Fatal DUI, Wins Sentencing Delay … and Jail
Update: Friday was an eventful day for Hasti Fakhrai-Bayrooti. The 41-year-old Rancho Santa Margarita immigration attorney, who in March copped to causing a fatal collision while blazing on prescription drugs, was sentenced to four years in prison. She also pleaded guilty to possessing an anti-anxiety drug while in jail awaiting sentencing, which prompted Orange County Superior Court Judge Greg Jones to give her three years for that offense, allow it will run concurrently with the vehicular manslaughter term. Fakhrai-Bayrooti had written a letter to Jones asking for “mercy” for killing Eric Billings, the 54-year-old owner of Quest Construction and married father of four who was killed around 6:45 p.m. March 15, 2013, when the attorney's 2003 Acura MDX drifted into the bicycle lane on southbound Santa Margarita Parkway in Mission Viejo and struck her fellow Rancho Santa Margarita resident. In the letter, which was read aloud in court, Fakhrai-Bayrooti told the Billings family, “You have my deepest sympathies and remorse” and says she was inspired by the character of the victim, which “made it possible to admit my wrongdoing” and prompted her to become more religious. Billings' family members at a May 8 hearing implored Jones to impose the maximum punishment. Fakhrai-Bayrooti's attorney told City News Service the defendant settled civil litigation with the Billings family by signing over a piece of undeveloped land.

Ricardo Nieva Admits to Stealing $2 Million While Pegasus School Business Manager: Feds

Update: Ricardo Nieva, the former finance director of Pegasus School, a private Huntington Beach elementary school, was sentenced this week to nearly 3 1/2 years behind bars for embezzling more than $2 million to pay for Angels season tickets, vacations to Europe, golf club memberships and other personal expenses. The 49-year-old Trabuco Canyon resident was ordered to serve 41 months in federal prison, pay restitution of about $2 million to and serve three years of supervised release after he gets out of prison. “He could've destroyed the school completely,'' Mike Smith, vice
chairman of the school's board of trustees, told the court. (Hat tip to City News Service.) “Money that could've been used to improve our educational program went to cars, jewelry, trips … he even paid for his own kids' private school educations.” Nieva was the business manager at Pegasus School for nearly 20 years until his resignation in September 2013. In a brief statement, he apologized for “betraying people at the school” and hurting his own family.

Orly Taitz Border-Crosser Lawsuit in Texas Allowed to Proceed … With Major Conditions

Update: Orly Taitz's attempt to transfer one of her immigration-related lawsuits from one judge to another she believes is more sympathetic to her cause in federal court in Brownsville, Texas, failed. And she can blame U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, the one Taitz believes is more sympathetic to her cause. Hanen is famous for being the judge who ruled in December in favor of Texas and 25 other states that filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration's immigration initiatives that would protect about 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation to their countries. They also would be eligible for work authorization. Hanen had previous caught Taitz's July 14, 2014, lawsuit against Obama, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell and the U.S. Border Patrol. Taitz is seeking to stop the government's ability to move undocumented immigrants to other states, or in the alternative, to deport or hold them in quarantine for two months because, the Rancho Santa Margarita lawyer/dentist/real estate saleslady/wind-up action figure claims, they spread epidemics of scabies, tuberculosis, measles, whooping cough, swine flu, dengue fever, the Ebola virus and lice. She also claimed undocumented immigrants pose a threat to national security and safety, sought a travel ban to African hot spots and challenged Obama's immigration policies. Hanen denied her request for a temporary restraining order in the lawsuit as well as her request to consolidate her case with the suit brought by the states. It was U.S. Senior District Judge Hilda G. Tagle who was assigned Taitz's March 25 lawsuit against Obama, Johnson, Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration Carolyn Colvin, John Does who she says steal Social Security numbers and other identifications, and Jane Does who are seeking asylum. Taitz alleges the government is granting of bogus asylum and refugee status to undocumented immigrants and helping people engage in identify theft. She also claims Obama is personally using a stolen Social Security number and other forged identification documents. Hanen denied Taitz's request to move the suit to his courtroom from Tagle's or, in the alternative, amend the complaint before Hanen to include the allegations in the March 25 lawsuit. The two cases do not contain common questions or facts warranting consolidation, Hanen ruled. (Hat tip to Valley Morning Star.)

I'm stopping now … my brain hurts more than my fingers.

Email: mc****@oc******.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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