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January 2001

The Kinsey Report
Supervisor Gets Another Extension
For Code Violations

By Jim Scanlon

Almost ten months ago Supervisor Steve Kinsey was outed for having constructed two buildings on his Forest Knolls property and for having installed an illegal septic system. He was quoted in the Independent Journal that he had been trying to obtain county permits since November 1999 although there were no written county records to that effect.

His first deadline for obtaining a building permit was the end of June, but he wrote to the County Building Code Enforcement Officer on July 3rd (he always seems to write or call after deadlines) asking for, and receiving an extension, this time until August 4, citing health problems.

On August 31 Kinsey asked for another extension because he needed time to negotiate with neighbors and this would have set a self imposed deadline sometime in October.

Not having received a response, on November 17, the Enforcement Officer sent a second violation letter. Such a second letter would normally be quite threatening to any normal homeowner caught violating multiple county codes. It gives the violator ten days to correct violations and warns: "Government Code Section 53069.4 permits the Board of Supervisors to provide one or more hearing officers to conduct hearings and issue enforcement orders with regard to violations..."

With all due sympathy and respect for a County Enforcement Officer following the rules, it seems absurd in the extreme to threaten the Chairman of The Board of Supervisors with having one or more investigating hearing officers appointed by the Chairman himself and his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors two of whom would have most likely have been indicted for credit card fraud in a less indulgent county.

Civic Center records available to the public do not explain why another extension was granted on November 28, ten days after Kinsey was noticed by certified mail, nor is there a data set for the new deadline. There is no indication that he responded within the ten day period.

Kinsey did send a "message" of some kind on November 30 with basically the same information he provided five months before: that he has an engineer working on the problem, that they are performing tests etc. He also "suggests" that the Enforcement Officer contact the newly appointed Chief of Environmental Health for further details. It seems odd that a violator of county codes would dare to not respond formally, in writing, to a certified violation notice and go on to "suggest" that the officer check with another agency. The formal record is beginning to peter out. The message from Kinsey to a county employee doing due diligence seems to be, "Take a hike!" and "Get off of my back!"

One can't help wondering what it must be like for the county workers caught in this embarrassing, messy situation. The absurdity is further compounded considering that Kinsey appointed the members of a special advisory commission (SEPTAC) to work with staff of Environmental Health in revising the county's codes relating to septic systems.

This citizens' commission is widely recognized as Kinsey's "brainchild." That his fellow Supervisors allow such a blatant conflict of interest to continue unchecked is a disgrace to the hear-no-evil-speak-no-evil-see-no-evil board and adds further to the absurdity. A supervisor in violation of the specific codes he is revising should be removed from any further consideration for conflict of interest.

Other Code Conflicts

Supervisor Kinsey's other 'brain children" include the joint sewer system shared between the Lagunitas School and the French Ranch Development in the San Geronimo Valley. It was claimed that this system would save the school lots of money. Not so. The school currently budgets $20,000 per year for special testing and there is no guarantee this amount won't rise. Another "brain child was to permit the County of Marin to sponsor the joint system between the school and the development as "the legal entity." This, it was claimed, would not be a president for other high density developments in West Marin. Not so. Others are lining up.

What is not clear is why the Forest Knolls building and consulting firm Design Build Alliance, which Kinsey previously owned and operated, and from which he derives substantial income, does not have a fictitious business statement on file. The Coastal Post reported this violation of Section 17917 of the Business and Professions Code on several occasions previously. We were recently reliably informed that this provision of the B&P; code, which is still on the books, is not enforced in Marin. This raises an interesting question: If there is no enforcement and if the highest elected official in the county doesn't follow this rule, why should anyone else follow it?

In his 1997 filing Kinsey lists himself as the "sole proprietor" of the firm and lists its net worth as between $10,000 and $100,000. His income from the business is listed as "more than $10,000." In later filings he states he is an "Owner/Partner" with the same income range. Design Build Alliance has a business license on file dating back to 1987. These licenses must be renewed annually and the current sole proprietor is listed as Steve Holt.

Steve Holt is a contractor who has written several; articles on the rigidity and unfairness of Marin's public health codes relating to septic systems and the great hardships which enforcement of these codes inflict on home owners in West Marin. In these articles, which appeared in the Gannet Marin Independent Journal and the Pulitzer Prize winning Point Reyes Light, Holt never mentions Kinsey by name although the articles relate to various aspects of Kinsey's revisions of county codes, enforcement of county codes by the Environmental Health Services, and to Kinsey's personal situation. Holt is identified as a contractor and the owner of Design Build Alliance. Supervisor Kinsey is not mentioned as Holt's partner or as a person that derives between $10,000 and $100,000 a year from the firm. Something is amiss.

With so many conflicts of interest apparent in records open to the public, it makes one wonder what conflicts might be, hidden out of public view.

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