SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — Although Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer wants two hikers who were rescued from Trabuco Canyons last month to pay for the cost of their rescue, it seems that he doesn’t have the votes after a private meeting with the rest of the board.
“I don’t have the votes, and I think there’s definitely a frustration on behalf of the board that the law is really not there,” Spitzer said. “It’s very difficult to make the arguments in this particular situation.”
Shawn Nelson, Chairman of the board, suggested that he does not believe the county has the legal right to pursue compensation for the rescue of Nicolas Cendoya.
“I think it’s time for the state to have a discussion that could help us and every other county that deals with this type of rescue situation,” Nelson said.
Cendoya, 19, was charged April 30 with a felony count of possession of a controlled substance. He is scheduled to be arraigned on May 22.
Investigators on April 2 found 497 milligrams of methamphetamine in Cendoya’s vehicle, according to Farrah Emami of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Cendoya, along with Kyndall Jack, 18, went missing on Easter Sunday night while hiking. Cendoya was rescued late April 3, and Jack was found the following morning.
Cendoya’s criminal case prompted Spitzer to explore the county’s legal possibilities to seek restitution for the rescue, which officials have estimated cost over $160,000.
Spitzer reportedly filed a “place holder” this week on the Cendoya case, citing the victims’ rights Marsy’s Law, “So Cendoya couldn’t offer a quick plea without restitution.”
Spitzer also suggested that, since he does not have the support of the board, “I need to think it through a regroup… I can’t go in as a supervisor. I’d have to go in as a taxpayer.”
Legislation has expired, according to Spitzer, that might have given county officials the authority to seek restitution from the hikers.
“I think the board would like to go after Cendoya, but… there’s a legal analysis that there’s no way to do it,” Spitzer said. He later said that he would seek new legislation giving municipal leaders the authority to seek restitution in some rescues.