Political Battle for Control of West Valley Water District Erupts as Election Rapidly Approaches

Political Battle for Control of West Valley Water District Erupts as Election Rapidly Approaches

WVWD Underwater?

Gail Fry Contributor

With three of its board members facing a rapidly approaching election on November 5, 2019, West Valley Water District Director Gregory Young alleges a proposed censure against himself and Director Dr. Clifford Young, Sr., including a restraining order brought against him on July 29, by the agency’s Public Affairs Manager Naseem Farooqi, were solely for political purposes.  

Three incumbents of the West Valley Water District (WVWD) face opponents in the November election. They include Kyle Crowther representing District 1 faces two opponents, business owner Linda Gonzalez and Betty J. Gosney; Don Olinger representing District 4 faces labor relations representative Channing Hawkins; and Greg Young who represents District 5 is being challenged by Jackie S. Cox, and an educational assistant Angel Ramirez.  

Since late 2017, WVWD has been embroiled in an alleged corruption scandal where fellow board members accuse each other of abuse of power, misappropriation of public funds, nepotism, discrimination, intimidation of employees and board members, improper termination of employees, and conflicts of interest.  

The accusations came to a head in December of 2017 when members of the agency’s management staff pointed the finger at then WVWD President Clifford O. Young, Sr. over a pattern of “improper spending and hiring practices.”  Subsequently, staff accusers were placed on leave, complaints were filed, and lawsuits brought against the agency which ultimately cost ratepayers thousands of dollars.  

In February 2019, WVWD Director Dr. Clifford Young, Chief Financial Officer Naisha Davis and Assistant Board Secretary Patricia Romero filed a whistleblower lawsuit against WVWD directors Taylor and Crowther, general manager Clarence C. Mansell, Jr. former assistant general manager Ricardo Pacheco, risk manager Deborah Martinez  as well as law firms Tafoya & Garcia LLP, The Kaufman Law Firm PC, Albright Yee & Schmit APC, and other individuals.     

The whistleblower lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court as case no. 19STCV05677, alleged the law firms and attorneys were giving kickbacks, bribes, campaign contributions, free trips, gifts and NFL tickets in exchange for the awarding of improper contracts, misappropriation of funds, and improper hiring practices.   An initial status conference is scheduled for October 8.  

The allegations of financial impropriety drew the attention of the State Controller’s Office with their arrival and proposed audit announced in a July 9th press release issued by Farooqi where WVWD President Dr. Michael Taylor pointed the finger at WVWD Director Dr. Clifford O. Young, Sr. as the wrongdoer.

On July 29, Farooqi filed an emergency request for a temporary restraining order against WVWD Director Greg Young and a court hearing was held the same day regarding the allegations. Greg Young, angered by the press release, threatened to “kill” Farooqi at a July 11th San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee meeting while allegedly WVWD Public Affairs Analyst Socorro Pantaleon looked on.  On July 16, Farooqi filed a complaint with WVWD about the incident and an investigation was opened.     

At the July 29 judicial hearing in the San Bernardino Superior Court, Farooqi sought an emergency restraining order against Greg Young. The Court however determined there was “no emergency” and continued the hearing until July 31, where the court again denied Farooqi’s request for an emergency restraining order declaring again, no emergency existed.  A subsequent hearing was scheduled for August 27.

“I am appalled by Director Greg Young’s request to the Court of me having to pay his legal fees and I appreciate the Judge denying that request… “I am disappointed Director Greg Young sought to further intimidate me and my witness [Socorro Pantaleon ] by also having Director Dr. Clifford Young attend the court hearing.”
– Public Affairs Manager Naseem Farooqi

At the August 27 hearing the Court continued the matter for September 16, to allow Greg Young to file a response. The judge also ordered Greg Young’s witness in the case, Gary Grossich, to appear.     

At the September 16 hearing, San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Janet Frangie, asked Farooqi if he had had any contact with Greg Young since the August 27, hearing. Farooqi admitted he had “no direct contact” or indirect contact with Mr. Young since August 27.  

Judge Frangie then asked Greg Young, “Are you running for some kind of office?”  Greg Young responded affirmatively.  Judge Frangie then asked Greg Young what office he was running for wherein Greg Young offered, “West Valley Water District, Division 5.  My election is in 50 days.”  

Judge Frangie then asked Greg Young if he was running unopposed.  Where Greg Young responded that he has two opponents.  Judge Frangie then inquired, “And do you have any information that they have any affiliation with Mr. Farooqi?”     Greg Young explained Mr. Ramirez “is known to move in the same circles as Mr. Farooqi.”  

Judge Frangie then asked Farooqi if he was still requesting a permanent harassment order.  Farooqi confirmed he was.  Judge Frangie questioned, “And why is that?”  Farooqi explained, “Because the statements that have been made in the past.”  Judge Frangie inquired, “My understanding is that was—that event occurred only one time, right?”  Farooqi confirmed.   

“In order to enter an award for permanent harassment order, it has to be a pattern, continuing conduct, and I really don’t have that here.” Judge Frangie explained.  Farooqi said he understood.  

“So, I’m going to dismiss the application without prejudice,” Judge Frangie confirmed explaining that “if something new happens” Farooqi could “come back.”  

In his declaration submitted to the court, Greg Young revealed on July 11, he had attended the San Bernardino County Republican Party Central Committee meeting and afterward was speaking to the Bloomington Municipal Advisory Commission (MAC) President Gary Grossich when he was approached from behind by Farooqi—startling him.   

Greg Young recalled a brief exchange where he explained they “would have words about that press release.” Farooqui responded that “he would be over at the bar and come speak to him when I was done.”  According to Greg Young, Grossich witnessed the exchange and after finalizing his conversation with Grossich he “left the building and returned home.” 

In an interview with The Voice/Black Voice News Greg Young attributed Farooqi’s request for a restraining order as “politically motivated” further alledging Farooqi and Brosowske were observed assisting director Don Olinger with campaign strategy in the board room.    

Greg Young explained Farooqi’s actions show he is unafraid by showing up at meetings where Greg Young is known to regularly attend such as a Bloomington MAC meeting where he (Greg Young) represents the district.  

He provided The Voice/Black Voice News with a photograph allegedly taken of the room at Mill Creek Cattle Company on July 11th around the time the alleged verbal exchange between himself and Farooqi occurred after the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee.  In the photograph, Greg Young circled Farooqi located behind where Greg Young and Grossich were talking in the foreground while noting that public affairs analyst Socorro Pantaleon, a subordinate of Farooqi, was not in the room.   

Photograph taken of room at the Mill Creek Cattle Company in Mentone, CA where the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee met on July 11, 2019. The photo was taken just prior to the alleged verbal exchange between WVWD Director Greg Young and WVWD Public Affairs Manager Naseem Farooqi.  In the photograph, G. Young and his purported witness Bloomington Municipal Advisory Commission (MAC) President Gary Grossich, are seated in the foreground talking and Farooqi (circled in red) is seated with his back turned to them.  When the photograph was taken—shared by Greg Young to support of his version of the incident–Farooqi’s alleged witness to the verbal exchange, WVWD Public Affairs Analyst Socorro Pantaleon (a subordinate of Farooqi) was not pictured in the room.

In a separate interview with The Voice/Black Voice News, Farooqi said, “It is unfortunate District employees have to request restraining orders from the court to put an end to threats made by Director Greg Young.”

“I am appalled by Director Greg Young’s request to the Court of me having to pay his legal fees and I appreciate the Judge denying that request,” Farooqi voiced adding, “I am disappointed Director Greg Young sought to further intimidate me and my witness [Socorro Pantaleon ] by also having Director Dr. Clifford Young attend the court hearing.” 

“However, I am encouraged by the Judge instructing me to refile with the court again should the threats and harassment continue by Director Greg Young.” Farooqi explained declaring, “I look forward to continue serving the ratepayers of the District in my current capacity without concern of retaliation.” 

Farooqi concluded, “It is my hope that my wife and I will be able to raise our children with peace of mind and no longer live in fear from harm and retaliation.”

All directors of WVWD were asked for their comments regarding director Greg Young’s accusations with no response as of press time from Taylor, Crowther, Olinger, or Dr. Clifford Young, Sr. 

In the meantime, initial results of the audit by the State Controller’s Office leaked to The Voice/Black Voice News reveal WVWD failed to provide a fair and competitive hiring process for three non-executive positions; performed background checks after the candidates were hired; provided no evidence it verified candidate’s education and work experience; gave excessive increase in pay to an individual who received an internal promotion; multiple contracts did not have a competitive bidding process and/or exceeded the original contract amount; district credit cards were used for non-district business related expenses; invoices lacked documentation, detail and description of work performed among other concerns.   

There is also a surprising update to the controversial May 16, hiring of Hesperia City Councilmember Jeremiah Brosowske to a general manager’s position for WVWD. At a September 3rd meeting of the Hesperia City Council, Brosowske was removed from his position as a City Council Member by a three to two vote based on a finding that he was not a resident at the time he ran for office; yet, he remains an employee of the WVWD.   

Hesperia City Resident Al Vogler attended the September 19 meeting of the WVWD Board to inform its directors of Brosowske’s removal from the Hesperia City Council and described the threats and intimidation brought by Brosowske’s supporters.  Vogler asked whether WVWD was considering replacing Brosowske or significantly reducing the amount of his salary and benefits.    

City of Hesperia Public Safety Advisory Committee Member Kelly Gregg also in attendance at the WVWD meeting opined that Brosowske was “not qualified to turn on a hose.”

About The Author

Gail Fry

Gail Fry is a legal assistant who acted as a self-appointed government watchdog in San Bernardino County during the early 2000s. Over those years she sought public records, was critical of county-paid benefits for state judges, expressed concern over the perceived creative financing for court construction and played a key role in the California Fair Political Practices Commission’s formal warning to former San Bernardino County Sheriff Gary Penrod for violating the Political Reform Act for failing to disclose ownership of several properties over many years. Fry then served eight years as a reporter for The Alpenhorn News, a biweekly newspaper covering the San Bernardino Mountain communities. Fry remains committed in her quest to hold government officials accountable to the people they represent through her articles in Moffatt Media, The IE Voice, Black Voice News and The San Bernardino American News, as well as her work with various law firms on issues she believes will shine a light on government corruption.

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