'Not guilty' plea from Collins to
Published: January 18, 2013
AS HE has maintained since being charged
in fall 2011, former county water board director Steve Collins
told a judge last week he is not guilty of dozens of felony and
Collins on Jan. 11 pleaded not guilty before Monterey County
Superior Court Judge Pamela Butler, who ruled in November 2012
that prosecutors had presented sufficient grounds for him to
stand trial on charges he submitted fake invoices to a
consulting client and broke state conflict-of-interest laws when
he lobbied for an engineering firm to get a contract to run a
new regional desal plant even while he served in an official
capacity with authority over the $400 million plant.
County prosecutors contend Collins — who declined to comment
after his arraignment — committed fraud against Ocean Mist Farms
by charging too much and submitting invoices for meetings
he never attended.
He is also charged with receiving $160,000 from RMC Water and
Environment — the consulting company that won a $28 million
contract to manage the now-defunct regional desalination project
— as he was lobbying for the plant to be approved and
participating in meetings to decide whether it should be.
Also at the court hearing last week, the judge appointed a
public defender to represent Collins, who had previously been
represented by Michael Lawrence and Juliet Peck.
During his preliminary hearing in November, Butler said “there
is sufficient cause to believe [Collins] is guilty” and ordered
him to stand trial.
Collins has long maintained he did nothing wrong and said he
never over billed Ocean Mist. He also said numerous county
officials, including County Counsel Charles McKee and former
county water board general manager Curtis Weeks, knew of his
dual roles in the regional desal plant and told him there was no
Collins, who has no prior criminal record, could spend numerous
years in prison if found guilty of the charges.
Another hearing on the matter has been set for Feb. 2 in a