I’ve been monitoring the actions of the West Valley Water District (WVWD) Board of Directors for the past seven months and observed some interesting decision-making processes.
As a result, I’ve grown more diligent in researching all decisions made by them. My experience of having served in public office coupled with thirty years working in Human Resources enabled me to fill in the blanks on some of their decisions because they often have very limited discussions on these items during board meetings.
It’s like they know in advance, who will make and second any motion, before an agenda item is even brought forth. That was apparent at the first meeting I attended in December, but I will save that for another time. This article instead, focuses on the agency’s most recent board meeting which occurred Friday, July 13.
My comments at the meeting sent board members and Vice-President Greg Young into a tirade. He called me and my comments, “Bulls—t.” In response to his insult, I asked God for strength to respond appropriately, and I did.
“As a representative of Black Voice News,” I began, “My remarks to you tonight are seeking information so the public can be informed, understand your commitment to transparency, honesty, fairness, and to determine whether you are conducting business under a code of ethics we can trust.
Over the past seven months, you’ve had four general managers. The treasurer has told you, not to charge alcoholic beverages on your expense reports and expect ratepayers to pay for it. You have hired your paid political campaign workers and placed them on the WVWD staff. You hired your boss from the City of Baldwin Park to serve as Assistant General Manager. You have fired all five of the top managers. You lost a five-million-dollar employment insurance policy contract because of your bad decisions.
In addition, you have cost the WVWD district tens of thousands of dollars in employment settlement litigation charges. All of this is just the beginning results of your mismanagement and bad decision making.
We don’t want to become like Sativa Water Company customers in Compton or the customers in Flint Michigan and wind up drinking muddy water from this potentially corrupt swamp that you have created.
I am not seeking information regarding why General Manager Robert Christman was placed on administrative leave or forced to resign. Instead, I want to know who knew what and when? The public also needs to understand why you contracted for a special financial audit report, and according to my knowledge, never released it to the public. Why?
My questions to the members of the board are Did you know that Christman was going to be placed on administrative leave before it happened on June 14, 2018? If so, how were you notified and by whom, since I have not seen an emergency board meeting posted. And, if you did not know—why not?
How did Clarence Mansell know to be at the last board meeting, so he could or would be appointed to a position that you had not yet declared was even open? Did you know about the appointment prior to the closed-session agenda discussion on June 17? If you choose not to respond, it is safe to write that you did know?
Did Christman steal money or violate some other policy to be placed on leave? Your failure to meet and discuss the action before he was placed on leave, makes his departure appear suspicious even though he was later forced to resign.” This concluded my remarks.
When the time came for board members to comment during the session, Greg Young attacked me over my question about the possibility that Christman stole money? I asked the question because I wanted to know what caused him to lose favor with the board in such a short period of time.
Greg did not dispute any of the things I said about those bad and unwise decisions made by the board during the past seven months. He did claim however, that Christman decided on his own to retire. This was news to me and others in attendance because on June 14, Board President Clifford Young stated:
“Effective immediately, Robert Christman has been placed on administrative leave. On behalf of the Board of Directors, we would like to extend our deepest gratitude to him for excellence in overseeing the District during his time as Interim General Manager, including the notable contriutions of reorgnization of the District’s organizational structure and completion of the latest budget.
Effective immediately,” he continued, “Naisha Davis will be appointed Acting General Manager until the Board of Directors has selected a new General Manager. Please continue to report to your respective managers during this transitional time.”
During the following board meeting on June 21, President Young subsequently announced Christman had resigned. But, when Greg Young launched his tirade against me on July 13, he claimed Christman had retired.
When someone is placed on an immediate administrative leave, it suggests the employee did something wrong. When employees resign, it can also mean something is wrong and the employer is giving you a way out to save face. Such resignations can also include a “Golden Handshake,” i.e., the addition of money so the employee will remain silent. On the other hand, when one retires after serving their employer well, the employer usually wants to show-case the employee and give him/her gifts and words of gratitude and thanks for their service.
This confusion over how Christman left the agency has only heightened my suspicion that the board is really hiding something. Did they force Christman out because he would not do something unethical or illegal? Did they pay him off to keep him silent? If so, how much and for what reason?
Just two months ago, on May 17, the board approved employment contracts for Robert Christman for General Manager, Crystal Escalera for Board Secretary, Naisha Davis for Chief Financial Officer, Deborah Martinez for Human Resources-Risk Manager and Ricardo Pacheco for Assistant General Manager.
My questions to the entire Board of Directors are, “What happened? What is going on in the district’s top management and what are you going to do about informing the RATEPAYERS and the public? When will you stop using all this profanity in public while sitting as an elected official representing the communities of Fontana, Colton, Lytle Creek, Rialto, Bloomington, portions of the unincorporated areas of San Bernardino County as well as a portion of Jurupa Valley in Riverside County?”