Dr. Clifford Young has fired or attempted to fire every Black employee that has worked in a management position at West Valley Water District since I started attending meetings on December 7, 2017. 

He did fire Shanae Smith with the support of Greg Young, Michael Taylor and Kyle Crowther over the objection of lone Board member Don Olinger, who would not go along with the wishes of Clifford.

You need to know that firing of Shanae cost WVWD $87,000 (plus attorney fees) to settle her case. Shanae now has a small business in Riverside and started a new job as Executive Assistant to the City Manager. Don Olinger gave her a just, honest and fair employer recommendation—he did not have to make up a good recommendation because her work performance evaluation was evidence of that—I read it during my investigation.

On December 7, 2017 Clifford’s good friend and favorite mayor, Deborah Robertson (as stated by Clifford before his swearing in ceremony that evening) administered his oath of office.  

Subsequent to the swearing in ceremony Clifford adjourned the WVWD Board meeting for an election victory celebration to thank campaign workers and supporters—the party was paid for by the WVWD ratepayers. 

Payment for the event is currently being investigated by the San Bernardino District Attorney’s office for “criminal implication” (to use the DA’s language) of using ratepayers’ money for political purposes. 

A 2018 investigation into Clifford’s inappropriate spending habits resulted in the District Attorney requiring Clifford to repay WVWD $1,378.58 for using ratepayers’ money for a business trip to Washington, D.C. that was officially cancelled, plus an additional $538.41 for a personal LinkedIn account.

Having said that, I want to make you aware of something Don Griggs, President of the WVWD Ratepayers Association, heard and witnessed at a meeting of the WVWD Board of Directors on Thursday, September 19.

There was an agenda item which featured a new contract to make Clarence the agency’s permanent general manager. During a discussion before the board on this subject, Director Clifford Young began yelling that he would not hire Clarence as a janitor, claiming he was not qualified. 

Board President Michael Taylor challenged Clifford stating, “You introduced Clarence to me. Clarence has done a great job as Interim General Manager and deserves to be made permanent. Plus, you don’t have to yell at people.” 

“I’m not yelling,” Clifford replied, “I am speaking forcefully, that’s what we do in my culture; we speak forcefully, and you three White men do not understand that.”  To which Michael Taylor retorted, “You had to play the race card, didn’t you? I call for the vote.”

Director Don Olinger asked for clarification, “A no vote would mean Mr. Mansell would be fired, is that correct Mr. President?” Taylor said that was correct. 

Olinger proceeded to vote, yes. Greg Young abstained. Clifford Young voted, no. Kyle Crowther and Michael Taylor both voted, yes. As a result, the motion to hire Clarence as the General Manager passed on a 3-2 vote. Clifford wanted to fire Clarence Mansell, because Clarence would not do what Clifford wanted him to do. 

This is why Clifford has his surrogates out campaigning to remove Don Olinger.  They are trying to secure one more vote to gain control of the Board in support of Clifford for his remaining three years as a board member. I have seen the damage he has caused in one year; so, his potential actions in three years could be costly to ratepayers.

I think it is a concern and also a fair question for Black voters and ratepayers to ask Clifford’s surrogates—Why do you want Don Olinger removed from the board especially since he fought to save a Black woman’s job as Board Secretary, then helped her get another job, and led the vote to hire a Black man as General Manger? I know Don and he is the kind of man that would fight for anyone who is being mistreated or discriminated against.

Then you can ask Dr. Clifford Young why he fired the Board Secretary and voted not to hire a well-qualified Black man as General Manager?

It was a month after Michael Taylor and Kyle Crowther broke ranks with Clifford and voted with Don Olinger to remove Clifford and Greg Young from leadership of the Board, that Clifford told people in the community, “I’m going to run some one against Olinger and Crowther.” I guess he found some people to do just that.

You can ask candidates who are running for the West Valley Water District why and who is supporting them to run before you cast your vote.

On November 5, 2019 three members of the WVWD Board of Directors are up for reelection including Kyle Crowther, Don Olinger and Clifford’s close associate on the Board—Greg Young. The outcome of this election could change votes on the board, and we need to send a clear message before then on where our loyalty stands.    

Also, I wish to encourage all WAG members and others to attend the next WVWD Board meeting and show your support for WVWD General Manager Clarence Mansell who is also the newest member of the Westside Action Group (WAG). During the meeting WAG’s President will read a statement in support of our newest member, Clarence Mansell. The October 3rd meeting of the WVWD board was cancelled so the next meeting is scheduled for October 17, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. The board meets at 855 W. Base Line Road in Rialto. 

To hear the WVWD Board of Directors’ discussion regarding the vote to make Clarence Mansell the agency’s permanent General Manager click here or visit the West Valley Water District website at https://wvwd.org/about/meetings-events/ and click the link to the 9-19-19meeting’s audio recording. 

Header Photo: Hardy Brown, Sr. Contributor. Photo by Benoit Maphettes