Kaddis found guilty on 11 of 13 counts
By Kelly Feser Eells
Despite state-registered geologist
William Girolamo's testimony to the contrary, the bulldozing
of 301 oak trees on William Kaddis' Lake Casitas-area property
did, in fact, illegally alter a streambed and violate county
and state hillside erosion laws - two of the 13 counts with which
Kaddis had been charged.
Girolamo, owner of a Los Angeles-based environmental consulting
firm and "an expert in wetlands identification, environmental
assessment and remediation," produced four separate reports
related to the charges, submitted as evidence by Kaddis' attorney,
"As to the evaluation of the streams and wetlands report,"
said Girolamo, "we, another registered geologist -certified
engineer Drew Haney - and myself, went on site and saw no evidence
of any stream course.
What we did identify was something
that may have been a stream or river course in the 1980s or early
'90s, but appears to be more of an area where drainage occurs.
And the definition of a stream, well, any body of flowing water,
by definition, has to be somewhat channelized."
Continuing, Girolamo said, "We could tell from personal
observation that when Mr. Kaddis bought the property, in July
2001, there was no streambed. But we went and found all the aerial
photos we could, all of them taken prior to July 2001, which
further verified (this)."
Diamond asked Girolamo if he'd made any determinations or evaluations
with respect to hillside erosion.
"Yes; we concluded that there was no visible sign of substantial
erosion - just the sort you'd have on hillsides where vegetation
had been removed and replanted. But as long as something's planted,
there's no danger of erosion. And I don't know what Mr. Kaddis
planted, but there was lush growth everywhere (the oaks had been
Girolamo further explained that, "per the Unified Building
Code, any excavating, filling, or combination thereof constitutes
grading (contributing to erosion), and there's no evidence that
this property has been graded. Removing trees and brush is not,
by definition, grading."
During cross-examination, Deputy District Attorney Karen Wold
determined that, not only was Girolamo "... unfamiliar with
the county's tree and environmental health ordinances, but hadn't
reviewed the Dept. of Fish and Game's sections (on same), which
take jurisdiction over them."
After a short break in the proceedings, Judge Kevin McGee ruled
all four reports inadmissible and "threw them out."
Wold called Mary Lou Stearns, a field supervisor with the Department
of Animal Regulation, to the stand.
"Are you familiar with the (Kaddis) property?" Wold
"Yes," said Stearns, explaining that she had visited
it three to four times in the last year and half, investigating
neighbor complaints - "including several from Joe Macaluso
(from whom Kaddis purchased the property ) about all the non-stop
Stearns said that, on Dec. 12, 2001, "I left a pre-seizure
notice in the gate, a notice of intent to seize the dogs because,
as far as we knew, they were abandoned. It didn't appear as if
anyone was living there."
Stearns noted that, "while the dogs had plenty of food and
water, they had no shelter, just trash cans and a blue tarp.
Also, there were four or five of them to a run, and in situations
like that, dogs get bored. Then they start challenging each other,
Diamond asked Stearns if, "as an expert on dogs, it's your
opinion that the trash cans and the tarp are insufficient? That
it would be better for the dogs if Mr. Kaddis could build a permanent
Stearns agreed that it would.
"And do you see any connection," he added, "between
cutting down an oak tree and providing a permanent shelter for
Wold's objection that the question was irrelevant was overruled,
McGee confirming with Diamond that it was the "basis for
his legal argument."
"In your 24 years experience," Diamond asked, "have
you ever had a situation where someone went straight to trial,
was prosecuted in criminal court for a civil violation like this
- operating a dog kennel without a license - bypassing any administrative
Again Wold's objection was overruled.
Diamond said, "One of our defenses, your honor, is that
this is a vindictive, arbitrary case."
Kaddis, who did not take the stand, was found guilty of 11 of
the 13 original charges against him, including violating the
county's tree protection and hillside erosion ordinances; illegally
altering a streambed; maintaining an illegal dog kennel; and
filing a false police report. McGee threw two charges of "creating
a nuisance" out.
Sentencing, which could include up to three years' jail time
and will likely include several million dollars in fines, has
been set for June 20.
The Ojai Valley News
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