Indicted for “All Lands, All Hands”

conspiracy

A federal grand jury has indicted a Forest Service fleet manager and a retired police officer Forest Service volunteer for their alleged conspiracy to patrol the Los Padres national forest boundary to prevent trespassing onto a private ranch in-holding. The local news story is here.

The fleet manager, Scott Alguire, served our nation for 20 years as an Air Force mechanic before being hired by the Forest Service four years ago. Although the alleged conspiracy occurred in 2011 and the indictment issued in September of last year, Mr. Alguire continues to work as the Los Padres fleet manager, which suggests the Forest Service has not seen fit (yet) to take any administrative personnel actions.

The case is going to trial next month.

If I were a juror, the first thing I’d want to know is how much did Mr. Alguire and the volunteer profit financially from their alleged crimes?

15 Comments

  1. If the allegations are true, that employee allowed a non-Forest Service employee to drive a marked law enforcement vehicle while armed.

    Yeah, that’s incredibly unethical, not to mention violates half a dozen policies I can think of and probably a dozen more I can’t think of. The Volunteers in the National Forests Act specifically prohibits volunteers from engaging in law enforcement activities.

      • I wonder if we could FOIA discussions of the Public Corruption unit priority setting meetings? Seems just as important to the public weal as a 50 acre thinning project đŸ˜‰
        Does FOIA apply to DOJ?

        • The “attorney-client” privilege that DOJ enjoys is a formidable FOIA defense. Not to mention FOIA’s deliberative process exemption that would apply to discussions and recommendations about what cases to prosecute.

          • Granted that FOIA’s and releasing documents during litigation might have gotten fogged up in my mind to some extent…so with that caveat (is that Latin? Hoping to be sexy ;)), I’ll try to keep to FOIA. In my time at the FS, I read and signed hundreds of FOIA letters.

            Our general policy when I worked at the FS was to release documents in FOIAs, we were told that was an administration principle to be open. As per this memo from the President:

            The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve. In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public.

            All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.

            Here’s a logic problem. If DOJ is setting priorities, conceivably the clients aren’t there. So is there an attorney-attorney privilege? And does that go against the intent of the President’s memo cited above?

            • It was interesting to watch these ‘presumptions’ change as the presidents changed.

              What is missing from this excerpt is what is needed to rebut the presumption in favor of disclosure. When I was a regional FOIA coordinator, there had to be a showing of ‘harm’ to the operation of government if documents are released. (The Forest Service Chief also retained the authority to make this determination and deny FOIA requests.) In practice, ‘harm’ is not that difficult of a case for the government to make if they want to, and that’s probably especially true for DOJ.

            • “Here’s a logic problem. If DOJ is setting priorities, conceivably the clients aren’t there. So is there an attorney-attorney privilege? And does that go against the intent of the President’s memo cited above?”

              The process of setting priorities would likely fall under FOIA’s deliberative documents exemption, as I mentioned in the post above. This exemption shields from disclosure the candid, back-and-forth discussion associated with subordinates giving policy advice to superiors as a part of a decision-making process. As for the President’s memo, I doubt the administration believes that a “presumption of disclosure” means waiving FOIA’s statutory exemptions, especially when it comes to attorney-client documents.

              • OK, I was just trying to clarify that it would be “deliberative documents exemption” not “attorney-client privilege”.

                I recall being discouraged from using the “deliberative documents” exemption in FOIA’s. I wish I could remember the exact reason why other than openness. I think one reason might have been if/when the case goes to court, the plaintiffs get to see it as part of the record anyway, so why not give it to them now? It might also be a strategy to show “hey there’s nothing hinky there, so why go to court?

                  • I remember also being encouraged to waive the privilege in discovery. Like reading hundreds of pages to look for deliberative documents and then, at the end, still be encouraged to release theme (so why did I have to read them?). But thanks for going down the comatose horse path with me.

                    I was hoping there was someone else who remembers this stuff who is now retired and can talk about the “whys”.

                    • As someone who had Judge Molloy cite his deliberative email message as a reason for reversing a forest plan amendment, I don’t know ‘why.’

                      The question does have to be considered in the context of most Forest Service litigation now being based on an administrative record. That means that discovery is not allowed, except in certain situations. One of those is if the record is ‘incomplete.’ My guess (based on some observations) is that government counsel tend to err on the side of being ‘complete’ to reduce the possibility of discovery (which could include depositions or lead to the horrors of an actual trial). The last case I was involved in there was a small group of ‘privileged’ documents that was not included in the administrative record.

  2. Completely out of bounds, regardless of “profit.” Who paid for the fuel, depreciation and use of government assets, never mind the false premise of a marked vehicle.
    So they got CAUGHT and are easy marks. Sorry, Andy, but no hankie wet here.

    • According to the news report, the private defendant in this case “was simply one of a group of individuals who entered into a written volunteer agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to patrol against poachers and trespassers.” Apparently the Santa Lucia ranger district has several such agreements, including this one with a local OHV group. Note the Forest Service lauds the OHV agreement “because many [OHV] group members are current or retired Ventura County law enforcement employees, they provide a strong presence deep inside the forest.” And, in fact, the private defendant is a retired law enforcement official.

      So one of these volunteers got carried away. Poor supervision, whatever. Does this rise to the level of felony “public corruption” punishable by up to 5 years in the federal pen? Public corruption is the mis-use of one’s government position for private gain. Here’s a nice FBI summary of public corruption. Note that in every example there is an element of private gain.

      Private gain is missing entirely from this case. The volunteer was doing the Forest Service’s bidding, patrolling the roads to maintain the Forest Service’s good relations with private property in-holders. The indictment does not allege the volunteer gained anything from his improper activities. Nor does the indictment allege that the fleet manager gained anything.

      Bad judgment? Indeed. Public corruption? You’ve got to be kidding.

      So, here’s my GUESS about what actually is going down. At its heart, I suspect this is a labor dispute between FS management and LEOs whose jobs are threatened by outsourcing to volunteers. So one of the LEOs blew the whistle to his FBI friends.

      • 1. All people don’t follow laws unless they are watched and ticketed.
        2. There isn’t enough money to hire people to patrol forests.
        3. Having everyday volunteers (not former law enforcement) “educate” people about the laws puts the lawbreaker and the volunteer in an awkward position (that’s what we have on our neighborhood open space).
        Ergo.. it sounds from Andy’s take that these folks were doing their best to protect the environment/neighbors relations with what they had. Darn it, if it weren’t in litigation we could actually talk to those folks and get their side of the story!

        Ideas as to be able to test Andy’s idea would be appreciated.

  3. Scott Alguire was found not guilty of all charges on May 08, 2014. The real story should be about negligence, fraud, waste, and abuse of power in Los Padres National Forrest. This case was out of pure retaliation and it’s a shame how so many people in management including the Forest Supervisor and even the Regional Commander for the law enforcement contributed to it with their negligence and denial. This case has cost us tax payers close to a million dollars not to mention what it has cost Mr. Alguire and his family. Where are the checks and balances in the Forest Service, if there were any this case would have never happened? Note to self if you are Forest Service employee never question the illegal practices of law enforcement cause they are above the law and forest policy.

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