K. L. Whipp & Co. Inc.
731 E. Yosemite Ave., Site B
Merced, CA 95340
Grant Writing & Management
Strategic and Business Planning
Economic Impact Studies & Marketing
Executive Services For:
July 31, 2008
Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced CA 95341
RE: Request to remove our e-mail address(s) from you (sic) distribution lists
Dear Ms. Miller,
Over the past few months we have requested via email, that the SJRRC remove our email address(s) from your distribution list(s) that you use to inform your clients, associates, friend etc. (s) of various events. These events as general rule do not involve our company.
As of July 15, 2008 we continued to receive your emails at one or more of our e-mail address(s). It is unfortunate that you have elected to take no action on our request. Therefore, the only option we have is to block all of your emails as spam.
As of July 15, 2008 all e-mails from SJRRC are blocked. In the future all correspondence will need to be mailed via the USPS:
For EMRCD correspondence send to:
East Merced Resource Conservation District
2135 Wardrobe Ave, Suite C
Merced CA 95341
For KL Whipp and Company, Inc. correspondence send to:
K L Whipp and Company, Inc
731 E Yosemite Ave, Suite B, PMB 304
Merced CA 95340
KL Whipp and Company, Inc.
First, let us say that without Karen and Fred Whipp, the EMRCD would not even exist on paper, much less be able to hold relatively orderly public board meetings. Second, SJRRC and others have attended these meetings for a decade, through the leadership of several pre-Whipp staffers. Third, there is a problem with this request.
The problem is that all the money that sustains the EMRCD, most of it going at this point to pay for the competent services of K.L. Whipp & Co. Inc., is public money, from various public grants and a recent loan from Merced County for $35,000. The pattern of correspondence established between SJRRC, Protect Our Water (POW) and other groups that have had a reason to take an interest in the affairs of the EMRCD, has been by electronic mail (email) to Karen Whipp since her arrival as top staffer to the organization. In fact, Ms. Whipp has welcomed this email and responded to it in a timely, orderly and intelligent way. However, when the EMRCD and its associated groups circumvented public process on yet another grant application and the deficiencies were pointed out to state funders, who subsequently denied the grant application, throwing the organization on the mercy of Merced County for an emergency loan to survive, attitudes toward the public have evidently cooled.
Here, the Whipps invoke the supposedly sacrosanct private rights of their corporation to deny mail from public groups that have been active participants in EMRCD meetings for a decade. They are not EMRCD “staff;” they are “private contractors.” The public source of their funds is incidental.
SJRRC recognizes that this consulting firm has every right to direct Raptor’s email to spam except when its contract is being paid by public funds. In fact, the Whipps are staff for the EMRCD and the Raptor Center has been directed by the EMRCD board that its contact person is Karen Whipp.
In talking to the Raptor Center, representatives said that they assume that Fred Whipp was just having a bad day. “There seem to be a lot of hissy fits going around, lately,” they said. But, per direction from the EMRCD board, Raptor will continue to address email correspondence, including requests under the Public Records Act, to members of the EMRCD, County Counsel, Supervisor Deidre Kelsey, Planning Commissioner CindyLashbrook, and K.L.Whipp & Co., Inc.
The reason the public welcomed the arrival of the Whipps and email communication with them is that the EMRCD board has proved itself repeatedly to be incapable of gathering, answering or accounting for its own surface mail in a timely way or to conduct its own business.
Resource conservation districts are valuable institutions and some of them in this state and elsewhere have been effective advocates for natural and agricultural resources. Their weakness is that they are appointed by local boards of supervisors. In the case of EMRCD, which exists mainly in the supervisor district of Deidre Kelsey, this has been unfortunate. The EMRCD and its associated groups and paid staff have been largely ruined in recent years by the actions of the Kelsey Family and one of its political lieutenants, Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook, board member of the EMRCD and paid staffer of its allied groups. The Kelseys have specific aggregate-mining interests on the Merced River: the mining of hydraulic tailings near Snelling. Aggregate interests downstream from the Kelseys of Snelling (Central Valley Concrete, Santa Fe Aggregate and Calaveras Materials, Inc., and most recently Black Diamond Aggregates) have seen their projects approved by the County and adjudicated in court, having been sued under the California Environmental Quality Act by SJRRC and POW for the damage these projects do to the Merced River. Most of the aggregate miners regularly attend meetings of the Merced River Stakeholders, a group founded by SJRRC along with state and federal resource agencies and river landowners (including the Kelseys). The Kelseys tried to politically wire their aggregate operations through the EMRCD. However, when Jon Kelsey was president of the EMRCD several years ago, he proposed to hold a “Fairy Shrimp Barbecue” as a fundraiser for a Raptor/POW lawsuit against a downstream mining competitor. SJRRC informed him in advance that mockery of endangered species was an inappropriate theme for an environmental fundraiser. Kelsey postponed the event but lurched forward a year later and environmental groups wrote an article about “River Dimwitz” that satirized the Kelseys, both President Jon and his wife, County Supervisor Deidre. Kelsey resigned his presidency and position on the EMRCD board and apologized for the event, which was a bust.
After the fairy shrimp barbecue disaster, Lashbrook’s political star began to rise rapidly. Anointed as a genuine “Valley leader” through the UC/Great Valley Center IDEAL program, she was also a paid staffer of the Merced River Alliance, a group operating on state funds to do research, education and outreach on the Merced River. The grant they were using was written by Teri Murrison, once a watershed coordinator, now a Tuolumne County supervisor. It was well written and openly presented to interested groups like the Merced River Stakeholders. However, this grant was winding down and it was time for a new infusion of state funds. Murrison was gone and the task fell to Lashbrook and friends to write the new proposal.
Lashbrook and friends thumbed their noses at SJRRC and landowners in the Merced River Stakeholders group, refusing to ever show them a copy of the final proposal of a grant that would have consequences for stakeholders’ interests. Members of the Merced River Stakeholders opposed the grant and the proposal was denied. At a point before the proposal deadline, when stakeholders were clearly and publicly expressing a desire to negotiate if they could only see the document, Lashbrook led the charge to stonewall them. However, behind her was Supervisor Kelsey, who refused to intervene and officiate over negotiations between groups that actually had substantial common interests but were offended by Lashbrook’s high-handed bootlegging of the proposal, which, she announced several times, “was a done deal,” wired by important people in Sacramento. Although Kelsey’s motives for playing ghost during that period are unknown, what can be said is that it was one of the best examples we have of her failure of leadership on river issues.
Although others protested the proposal formally and publicly, according to the Kelsey-Lashbrook-EMRCD-Farm Bureau Axis of Uninformed Rumor, of course it was the Raptor Center that destroyed the whole thing. At an EMRCD meeting during this period, Lashbrook declared “war” on SJRRC, but this merely formalized what had been unspoken policy among members of the axis of uninformed rumor. The axis had been operating under the principle of asking the Raptor Center to step up and protect their private property interests in the name of the environment for some time, while behind its back, they denied any connection to Raptor or POW and joyfully joined in bad-mouthing the group, wherever wine flowed.
A year later, Lashbrook and friends pulled the same stunt again, having created a front group it claimed replaced the Merced River Stakeholders, with another secret grant proposal that would affect landholder and environmental interests on the Merced River. This time, in a pattern all too common, the Merced applicants managed to drag the state agency into their corruption. Attorneys for the agency produced marvelous legal arguments against granting public access to documents begging public funds, leaving a paper trail that would have made an interesting state Public Records Act and Government Code case. Instead, the agency just denied the grant and permitted the public to see it after denial had been made. Karen Whipp was deeply involved in writing this one. It read like a collection of boilerplate gathered in a junkyard.
This lamentable tale, including Fred Whipp’s little hissy fit above, which effectively cuts off two-way communication between environmental groups and the EMRCD, illustrates one thing: destructive political leadership on both agricultural and natural resource issues in Merced County. By destructive, we mean “leadership” without grasp of any issue, which operates solely on the principles of cowardice and grudge.
Ironically, the Whipps chose to send this letter after the EMRCD July board meeting, the first one in years that SJRRC was unable to attend due to a conflict with the first public meeting on the FERC re-licensing project for Merced Irrigation District. This meeting, which the EMRCD should have cancelled its meeting to attend, concerned an issue with vast impacts to the Merced River, the dominant resource flowing through this resource conservation district. But, it has been noted, the Mariposa RCD, which has done good work in recent years, has been told by the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors not to take part in the FERC re-licensing process. Perhaps, EMRCD has received the same orders. This, however, is no great loss to the public input into the FERC process because the EMRCD board has a hard time making it through its own agenda. Reading FERC documents would be well beyond its capacities. The Raptor Center regretted not being able to attend this EMRCD meeting, but it also expressed fatigue with baby-sitting a hostile group of willful illiterates.
The public wonders, finally, how the EMRCD will repay the $35,000 loan from the County. They can’t pay it off through another grant of public funds and their fundraisers don’t raise that much money. Will the board members pay it off? Will they try to stick their insurance company with it? Will the present board resign, declare bankruptcy and leave the debt for future board members? Will the County “forget” that EMRCD owes it $35,000?
Meanwhile, the Kelseys have moved on and now the Merced County Farm Bureau is carrying their agendas, most recently Deidre’s reelection campaign. Members of the board, heavy contributors to her campaign, produced a rubber-stamp endorsement of her in the shape of a large kangaroo.