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Whistle-Blower Ex-Employee Files Injunction to Stop Election of Directors Allegedly “Hand-Picked” by Central Basin Water GM
By Brian Hews
Hews Media Group-Community News has exclusively learned that a former Central Basin Municipal Water District (CB) employee has filed an injunction against his former employer effectively halting the election of three new director positions created by recent legislation.
Ron Beilke worked as Assistant to the General Manager until his release by CB in 2014. Beilke subsequently filed a wrongful termination whistle-blower lawsuit against CB and settled in October 2016 for $400,000.
AB 1794 (Garcia) was signed into law in September 2016 with the intent to reform the CB Board amid charges of mismanagement, corruption, and “Board dysfunction.”
AB 1794 directed CB’s General Manager to notify the agencies water purveyors of a 60-day period that CB will accept nominations for appointment of individuals to the CB Board of Directors.
Water Purveyors are defined in the legislation as cities, & small and large pumpers.
After the appointment of the three additional directors, the CB Board would function with eight directors until reapportionment would reduce the number of Districts from 5 to 4.
The CB Board would then consist of seven directors; four elected by area residents and three appointed by water purveyors.
The seven member Board would become effective in November 2022.
CB General Manager Kevin Hunt had solicited candidates for the three new director positions and received nominations in late-January 2017.
HMG-CN has learned that only nine candidate names were submitted for the three director positions.
CB is scheduled to announce the director appointments on February 22nd, 2017 with new directors installed sometime in April 2017.
Beilke told HMG-CN, “I was very concerned that (CB General Manager) Kevin Hunt was rushing to appoint three directors that he had hand-picked in order seat directors who he controlled” Beilke stated. “These directors will be Hunt’s bosses, so if the GM is allowed to select his bosses, that is a clear conflict of interest.”
Beilke went on, “I spoke with several city councilmembers who told me that they were never briefed about the legislation, or were not allowed to submit a candidate because the process was not clearly advertised and was so rushed. They just didn’t have time to debate and vote for a candidate in open session.”
“I recently settled a whistle-blower lawsuit, so I know very well how the culture at Central Basin works” Beilke continued. “I want to emphasize that I fully support Assemblymember Garcia’s goal to reform the District. My concern is that the roll-out of the legislation is being bungled and the Legislature’s goal to reform the District will fail. The process to reform the Board needs to be properly handled in order to withstand challenge if we’re to have any hope of reversing the mismanagement and dysfunction at Central Basin.”
CB Board President Phil Hawkins commented “I was very concerned that the GM was rushing the process and was not keeping the Board apprised, and I informed the GM of that. I was afraid that constituents would complain and I was right.”
CB Board Director Art Chacon stated “I spoke to several of my cities and they had no idea that this election was even happening. In fact, they have not yet been informed of who the candidates are, or given any information of their qualifications. And we’re supposed to announce the winners in a week? It doesn’t make sense. We need to have an independent review of the legislation to make sure the process is fair and transparent.”
HMG-CN asked Hunt to comment, with Joseph Legaspi, CB’s Director of External Affairs sending a “comment from the district.”
“Mr. Beilke’s unfortunate comments seek to undermine the integrity of an appointment process that is being conducted in an ethical and transparent manner. The District has met with our retail water agencies frequently to ensure that the appointment process and timelines were clear, understood and in accordance with the legislation. The selection of the appointees is to be voted upon by the retail water agencies, not hand-picked by the General Manager as Mr. Beilke’s inaccurate statement suggests. The District has worked tirelessly in partnership with our stakeholders to enact good government reforms that reflect our commitment to providing the highest levels of service to our constituents and moving Central Basin forward.”
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