The Irresponsible Inspector of Calaveras County?

Work is a necessary evil to be avoided.” – Mark Twain

Ever the cynic, beloved American author Samuel “Mark Twain” Clements, who penned a story about a celebrated jumping frog from this particular part of the Golden State nearly 140 years ago, probably would not have been surprised at the alleged inactions of Ray Waller. Waller was a Calaveras County building inspector whose alleged avoidance of the job for which he was hired may ultimately cause people the loss of their health and even their lives to asbestos disease–or cost the county a vast sum of money from lawsuits. According to a recent news story in a local newspaper, Calaveras County faces  “hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuit settlements and construction overruns” because former chief building inspector Waller failed to do his job properly. Waller has been accused of allowing demolition of a building that resulted in public asbestos exposure, among other violations.

Waller, who has been terminated from his employment, vehemently denies the allegations. He told the local press that they were distortions and even outright lies. Waller, who is considering filing a lawsuit against Calaveras County, says that the allegations were “…a vengeful, spiteful act by them [county officials] because I’ve been talking about them on my Web site.” On the other hand, Steve Wilensky, who is chairman of the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors, said the county took too long to issue an official explanation for its action against Waller. “I am proud that we finally did the right thing,” he told the local media. According to his website, Waller is the victim here. He accuses Calaveras County of misappropriating taxpayers’ money. On his web page, Waller states that “… something terrible has gone wrong at the County and they are trying to keep a tight lid on the affair and do as much damage control as possible if any hint of the troubles gets out,” implying that he is taking the fall for the entire affair. Interestingly, Waller and his colleagues at the Calaveras Builders’ Association are backing a new candidate for Wilensky’s seat in an upcoming election. What’s the real story here? At this point, it’s difficult to say. One thing is certain, however; before long, lawsuits, whether over asbestos, slander, or wrongful termination–or all of the above–will be flying thick and fast, and the real losers will be the taxpayers of Calaveras County.