Stevens to fight criminal charges

Attorney calls D.A.'s complaints 'ludicrous'

By Chris Hunter; Tribune Editor

North Coast County Water Board General Manager David Stevens is going to wage an aggressive, offensive legal battle opposing the charges filed against him by the San Mateo County District Attorney's office, according to Stevens' attorney, Joe O'Sullivan.

"He's going to go on the offensive," said O'Sullivan, who has taken over the criminal case from Stevens' previous attorney. "The whole tenor will change."

Stevens has consistently said that he believes the legal attacks against him are personally and politically motivated.

The District Attorney, after investigating Stevens and the water district for nine months, believes that Stevens has committed crimes worthy of 11 felony charges.

O'Sullivan has referred the issue of whether or not the board of directors can suspend Stevens from his top administrative job at the water district to a labor relations specialist.

"I don't think those people (board members who have said they want Stevens removed from his job) could even vote at the board meeting," said O'Sullivan. "You're supposed to retain some objectivity."

A special closed session board meeting has been called for Tuesday, Jan. 7, to discuss the general manager's situation. Board member Tom Piccolotti has said he believes Stevens should not be permitted to remain in his position now that criminal charges have been filed.

Claiming that he is confident Stevens will be able to prove his innocence in court, O'Sullivan said that his client is not going to plea bargain on any of the charges.

"I haven't seen any police reports," said O'Sullivan. "I don't see anything I'm worried about."

O'Sullivan believes the case against Stevens is "a truly unique situation."

"Some of the charges are ludicrous," said O'Sullivan. He cited the charge in which Stevens is accused of misusing a district credit card to buy his son a go-cart.

"He had a problem with his credit card and used the district's card," said O'Sullivan. According to O'Sullivan, the same day Stevens used the district card he returned to his office and informed everyone there of his emergency use of the card for a personal reason and repaid the money.

"Obviously, there was no intention to steal," said O'Sullivan.

As for the theft of district property charges, which involve water meter boxes delivered to Chuck Gust, O'Sullivan wonders why Gust isn't being charged if the DA considers it a theft. Gust and Stevens have said it was a purchase arrangement.

O'Sullivan said Stevens would be holding a press conference as soon as the actual trial date had been announced. "He wants to get his side of the story out," said O'Sullivan, whose client has characterized media reports on the water district investigation and the district attorney's announcement as "hit pieces."

Of particular concern to O'Sullivan is the rehashing in media reports of a previous drug felony conviction Stevens has on his record. "He should be congratulated for getting on with his life," said O'Sullivan, who believes it is unfair to "resurrect" the 1984 felony conviction.

Stevens has consistently maintained that the charges against him are exaggerated and that any inappropriate actions on his part were handled by the board of directors in closed session meetings.

District Attorney Jim Fox disagrees, going so far as to consider bringing water board members in front of a grand jury on accusations of malfeasance. Fox has said that the board of directors does not have the authority to privately deal with what he considers criminal activity.

But Stevens' attorney aggressively dismisses the district attorney's reasoning and expects to win the case for his client in court.

"I expect him to be exonerated," said O'Sullivan. "The only thing we'll be waiting for is an apology."