EXCEPTION TO THE RULE: The broom is in and washing down pavement is out this drought year in the Contra Costa Water District.

Just moments before the water board passed a broadly written ban on washing down pavement, board member Bette Boatmun spotted grounds for some leeway.

She asked whether dog shelter, kennel operators or others with pets would be allowed to wash down pavement where the pets did their business. A broom, she suggested, isn't so sanitary.

Water district managers agreed, saying they don't intend to penalize people who do a little pet cleanup.

Those who leave a hose running in the gutter, however, may get a written notice or a visit from a district employee. Flagrant scofflaws could get a flow restricter installed on their water service pipe.

At the Frank L Stone Animal Facility in Antioch, Calif., 2012.
At the Frank L Stone Animal Facility in Antioch, Calif., 2012. ( Bay Area News Group)

April fools: Richmond Councilman Tom Butt is a prolific writer, known to churn out thousands of words per week on his website, commenting on city policy and lobbing barbs at his political rivals. In addition, the 70-year-old architect hits a winner every April 1.

This year was no exception. Butt had residents abuzz on social media with his story, "Breaking News -- Mayor Announces Eminent Domain Mortgage Seizures to Begin Tomorrow Morning in Richmond," which he cannily dated March 31. Butt proclaimed the city " ... will finally implement the controversial program starting at sunrise ... A fleet of hand-picked process servers, fueled with free coffee provided by Catahoula, will fan out from Richmond City Hall at exactly 7 a.m. Tuesday to serve legal papers on the various banks servicing underwater 'zombie' mortgages in Richmond."

The city's eminent domain plan has garnered headlines for months and prompted bondholders to preemptively sue the city but has languished without a supermajority support on the council.

Like a cartoonist who embellishes everyone's peccadillos to freakish comic effect, Butt announced the "ecstatic" Mayor Gayle McLaughlin "cobbled together a creative and brilliant workaround that has finally come to fruition," forming a secret Joint Powers Authority with another city to bypass the recalcitrant council. The city attorney, Butt wrote, helpfully greenlighted secret meetings.

Butt wrote that the sensational developments sent his council rivals into a tizzy, even prompting Councilman Nat Bates to call President Obama, whom Bates befriended at a Christmas Party. Councilman Corky Boozé "launched into a 30-minute rant about some unrelated issue," Butt wrote, and Councilman Jim Rogers was "wracked with indecision."

Butt sat back and savored the chaos he'd wrought.

"Hooked her," Butt wrote in an email, no doubt while grinning, noting he had received an urgent request from a local reporter for comment on the faux news.

Apparently, many readers didn't get to the end of Butt's farcical piece de resistance.

The last line read, "I wish you a happy April Fool's Day!"

NO FOOLING: Hours after Antioch High School held a ceremony for a new social justice center on April 1, a surprise visitor showed up on campus.

Anthony Chavez, the grandson of civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, was in town and checked out the room for more than an hour, school officials said.

Chavez also spoke with a handful of staff and a group of students with the school's Leadership and Social Justice academy who helped put the room together.

I AM NOT A FELON: There was a Nixonian moment at a recent Pinole City Council meeting as Councilman Phil Green responded to a speaker's claim that he is unfit to serve food at Sunday's Barbecue for the Troops in Fernandez Park.

"Phil Green is no friend to our military, as evidenced by his conduct," Pinole resident and former Economic Development Manager Mary Drazba had said moments earlier. "He was the sole owner of a company convicted of stealing money intended for our troops."

Drazba noted that her father was a Marine who served in Korea and her uncle served in Korea and Vietnam. Her brother-in-law is an Air Force colonel who served in Iraq and her son, now a Marine captain, served in Afghanistan.

Green's company, Bay Area Fire Inc., pleaded guilty in 1983 to bilking the government by charging the Navy inflated prices for repairing and servicing fire extinguishers, and had to pay a $10,000 fine, according to U.S. District Court records.

Green has said there had been a dispute over some $8,000 and his attorneys recommended his company plead guilty because it would have cost a lot of money to fight the charge.

"I implore the organizers to honor our veterans, the troops and their families and remove this convicted felon from the event's staff," Drazba said in closing.

In reality, it was Green's company, not Green personally, that pleaded guilty in 1983.

"I am not a convicted felon," Green said, "and that is an outright lie."

In a telephone interview days after the meeting, Green appeared undaunted, saying, "I'll be cooking and hoping to see some troops out there."

Staff writers Denis Cuff, Paul Burgarino, Robert Rogers and Tom Lochner contributed to this column.