By Randy Economy
Details of the arrest of West Basin Municipal Water District Director Ronald Smith have been obtained by Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper on Friday morning.
HMG-CN can confirm that Smith had been on the radar of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office of Public Integrity for the past couple of years.
HMG-CN has learned that Smith used an internal discretionary account as his own personal checkbook. According to Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Director Smith has been indicted on seven felony counts.
“We arrested Director Ronald Smith on 26 July 2014 for alleged charges of misuse of public funds and giving false affidavits,” Robison told HMG-CN in a phone interview on Friday morning.
Robison confirmed that Smith has been charged with two counts of Penal Code section 424 (A), misuse of public funds. Smith was also charged with one count of violating Government Code section 1090 that prohibits a government official from having a financial interest in a contract entered into by his agency.
Smith was also charged with four counts of violating Penal Code section 118. Robison said that the statute makes it a crime to file a false affidavit.
HMG-CN has learned that thousands of dollars from the little known fund were used by Smith to pay for school tuitions for his children, as well as private dance lessons and tennis lessons for one of his daughters, and even used the fund on a private boat repair.
The District Attorney is also alleging that in August 2010, Smith requested the board make a $6,000 donation to a nonprofit. The name of the group was not disclosed. Smith allegedly gave $2,000 to the nonprofit from his “outreach” fund that did not require board approval.
Robison said Smith, if found guilty on all charges, could face up to nine years in California State Prison.
In the meantime, Don Dear, the current President of the West Basin Municipal Water District told HMG-CN through a statement “West Basin was disappointed by this news and its unfortunate for all concerned.”
“We want our customers to know that despite this situation, West Basin will continue its hard work and commitment to maintain our water industry leadership in water recycling, conservation and water reliability,” Dear said in his statement.
Smith was elected to the Board of Directors in 2006. Director Smith represents Division I, which includes the cities of Carson, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills Estates and portions of San Pedro.
By law, Smith remains on the West Basin Board and can only be removed from the Board if convicted of a felony crime.
Robison confirmed that Smith would be appearing in a Torrance courtroom on August 12, for a preliminary hearing.
HMG-CN was the first news agency to report on the arrest of Smith, and will be following the case during the next several months.
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