The Calleguas Municipal Water District accused actor Tom Selleck of illegally moving water over district boundaries from Thousand Oaks, Calif., to his 60-acre Hidden Valley estate.
LOS ANGELES — It had all the makings of a water war, pitting a Ventura County water district against actor Tom Selleck.
The Calleguas Municipal Water District accused Selleck of illegally moving water over district boundaries from Thousand Oaks to his 60-acre Hidden Valley estate, and it spent about $22,000 on a private investigator to track the deliveries, according to a complaint filed in Ventura County Superior Court.
As California’s drought-ravaged water supplies dwindled and the district sent cease-and-desist letters to Selleck’s addresses, the unlawful deliveries continued, the complaint said.
But the skirmish came to a halt Thursday, when the water district said it had reached a tentative settlement with Selleck. Details are confidential pending approval by the water district’s board, said Eric Bergh, Calleguas’ resources manager.
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The board is scheduled to consider the settlement at its meeting Wednesday.
“We’re happy about it,” Bergh said. “It’s good news.”
The tentative resolution caps an episode that, fueled by celebrity and the novelty of the purported misconduct, prompted fascination and more questions: Was Selleck himself, the mustachioed “Magnum, P.I.” and “Blue Bloods” star, pulling up to a fire hydrant and plundering the city’s water system? Did it not constitute a crime, such as grand theft?
According to the complaint, a water tender truck was seen multiple times filling up at the same Thousand Oaks fire hydrant and then delivering the water to Selleck’s property in Hidden Valley. A delivery was first observed about Sept. 30, 2013, according to court papers.
Residents say the same man — not Selleck — usually pulled the truck up to the hydrant about 6 a.m.
Jay Spurgin, director of public works for Thousand Oaks, said water sourced from the hydrant described in the complaint was legally purchased during the last two years.
With a $710 check, the Thousand Oaks-based construction company Burns Pacific Construction, secured a city-approved water meter on the fire hydrant in early August 2013, according to city records.
Construction companies and contractors typically obtain special meters that allow them to draw water from hydrants for large-scale projects such as controlling dust or mixing concrete, Spurgin said.
After the meter was installed, the construction company could use as much water as it needed — even sell it to a third party — so long as the monthly bill was paid, he said. That monthly bill included a flat $564 fee plus $5.32 for roughly each 750 gallons, a rate higher than for residential customers, he said.
“Whatever water was taken from this construction meter was paid for,” Spurgin said.
In June, the water meter was removed.
It’s unclear whether Selleck, his employees or a contractor purchased the water directly from the construction company or from another source. Representatives for Selleck have not responded to several requests for comment.
A receptionist at the construction company said the company had no comment about the use of the hydrant.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department reviewed the allegations and was unable to establish that a crime had occurred, according to a department spokesman.
The issue for Calleguas — which provides water to smaller purveyors in Simi Valley, Moorpark and other parts of southeast Ventura County — was the movement of water outside its territory, which is prohibited by law, Bergh said.
Selleck’s ranch, which he has owned for nearly three decades, is within the boundaries of the Hidden Valley Municipal Water District, an agency that exists largely on paper and does not provide drinking water. The approximately 37 ranches in Hidden Valley, including Selleck’s, rely on wells.