Conflicting stories at Collins
prelim frustrate judge
Published: October 12, 2012
HEARINGS THIS week to decide if former
county water board director Steve Collins will stand trial on
conflict-of-interest charges became so tangled with conflicting
statements from witnesses that the judge in the case referred to
the testimony as “multiple layers of hearsay.”
In November 2011, the Monterey County District Attorney’s
office charged Collins with felonies, alleging he was paid as a
lobbyist for a private company that was trying to win a
lucrative contract to run the new water project while he also
served on the county water board — a violation of state
In the hearing that began Tuesday, prosecutors filled in the
details of their case against Collins, contending he was paid
about $160,000 by RMC Water and Environment, which was awarded a
$28 million contract to manage the $400 million desal plant,
even as he participated in meetings to decide whether it should
But Collins has maintained that numerous officials, including county supervisors Dave Potter and Lou Calcagno, former Monterey County Water Resources Agency GM Curtis Weeks and county attorneys knew he worked for RMC and assured him there was no conflict of interest.
Court proceedings in front of Monterey County Superior Court
Judge Pamela L. Butler Thursday highlighted the disparity in
witness statements made to district attorney investigator Tracey
For example, Collins’ attorney Michael Lawrence asked Spencer
whether she recalled Collins telling her he had a conversation
with Weeks in which Weeks told Collins he needed to take a
leadership role in the regional project.
“According to Mr. Collins, that conversation took place,”
Spencer said. “According to Mr. Weeks, it did not.”
Lawrence also said that, as time went by, Collins was “spending
more and more time with county officials as it pertained to the
But she said county officials believed Collins’ involvement
with them was in his capacity as water agency board member, not
a consultant to the private company.
Collins insists that they knew he was also working for RMC,
but, “at no time did he say he was a consultant with RMC,”
Lawrence also asked Spencer about a meeting with Collins, Weeks
and Marina Coast Water District general manager Jim Heitzman
that occurred at Weeks’ office.
“Mr. Weeks denies that meeting took place,” Spencer said.
“When you have people saying A happened and another person
saying A did not happen,” Butler said, “there is a credibility
Collins is charged with more than 30 felonies and misdemeanors,
including grand theft for billing Ocean Mist Farms for advisory
work he never performed.
After two days of testimony, hearings to determine whether
Collins will stand trial were continued to Nov. 13.