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District failed to notify Selleck of water theft allegations sooner, lawyer says

The curtain appeared to fall this week on Tom Selleck’s latest role: that of the suspected recipient of unlawful water deliveries.

The Calleguas Municipal Water District had accused the “Magnum P.I.” and “Blue Bloods” star of having truckloads of water from its district delivered to his estate, a violation of local law because his home sits in Hidden Valley, outside Calleguas’ boundaries, according to a complaint filed in Ventura County Superior Court.

To track the deliveries over the last two years — during which Californians have coped with a worsening drought — the district hired a private investigator.

On Wednesday, the water district accepted Selleck’s settlement offer. He agreed to stop transporting water outside Calleguas’ boundaries and to reimburse the cost of the private investigator, about $22,000, district officials said.

But after the settlement was unanimously approved, the actor’s attorney issued a statement, marking the first public comment by one of Selleck’s representatives and an epilogue to a dispute that generated global intrigue.

“Mr. Selleck did not receive any notifications prior to last week stating that he was acting outside of regulations decreed by the county,” attorney Marty Singer said in the statement, which was issued through a publicist. “Mr. Selleck previously paid for all the water that he utilized, which the Calleguas Municipal Water District acknowledged had not been stolen.”

Eric Bergh, Calleguas’ water resources manager, took umbrage with Singer’s comments. The water district had sent identical cease-and-desist letters in 2013 to Selleck’s address in Hidden Valley and a second address in Century City linked to the property, according to the complaint. Bergh forwarded copies of the shipping invoices indicating the letters were delivered.

A spokeswoman for Selleck clarified on Thursday that there is no denying the water district tried to contact the actor. But no one at Selleck’s ranch signed for the cease-and-desist letter and Selleck did not personally sign for them either, she said. Selleck was not aware of the letters’ existence, the spokeswoman added.

The question of payment for the water has proved a murkier issue. According to public records, a construction company had paid the city of Thousand Oaks for the water from the hydrant. It’s unclear whether Selleck or another person arranged to pay the construction company for the water. Selleck’s attorney insisted the water was paid for.

But district officials have countered that multiple types of payment actually cover the costs of the water, including annexation fees and water-related property tax assessments.

“The water delivered and used in this case was not fully paid for, period,” Calleguas General Manager Susan Mulligan said.

The dispute has spotlighted long-standing issues between Calleguas, which has about 630,000 customers, and its smaller neighbor, the Hidden Valley Municipal Water District, where Selleck’s ranch is located.

The Hidden Valley district does not provide drinking water. Residents rely on wells, and when some wells dry up during drought, residents look for alternate water sources.

About five other Hidden Valley residents received cease-and-desist letters, according to an attorney representing Calleguas.

If Hidden Valley wanted to join a water district, residents would have to pay about $9,000 per acre of land and install an actual water infrastructure. Some ranches in Hidden Valley cover several hundred acres, making the cost of joining a water district prohibitive.

For breaking news in California, follow @MattHjourno

MORE ON THE DROUGHT:

The man who has the power to be a water god

Water managers dodge bullet with 'May miracle' rains

Many of the world's water basins are being depleted, studies find

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

10:09 p.m.: This story was updated to include comment from Tom Selleck's attorney.

This story was originally published at 6:28 p.m.

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