Rushing an Election?

Brian HewsNewsLeave a Comment

Mr. Hunt
Mr. Hunt

Hews Media Group-Community News has exclusively learned that a former Central Basin Municipal Water District employee effectively has halted the election of three new director positions by filing an injunction against his former employer.

Ron Beilke worked as Assistant to the General Manager until his release in 2014.

Mr. Beilke subsequently filed a wrongful termination whistle-blower lawsuit against Central Basin. He settled in October for $400,000.

Assembly Bill 1794 was signed into law in September with the intent of reforming the Central Basin Board amid charges of mismanagement, corruption, and “Board dysfunction.”

The new law directed Central Basin’s general manager to notify the agency’s water purveyors of a 60-day period that they will accept nominations for appointments to the Board.

Water purveyors are defined in the legislation as cities, and small and large pumpers.

After the appointment of the three additional directors, the Central Basin Board would function with eight directors until reapportionment would reduce the number of Districts from five to four.

The 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.

Did He Act Improperly?

Central Basin General Manager Kevin Hunt had solicited candidates for the three new director positions and received nominations in late January.

We have learned that only nine candidates were submitted for the three director positions.

The new director appointments are to be announced Wednesday with new directors installed sometime in April.

Mr. Beilke told us that “I was very concerned that Kevin Hunt was rushing to appoint three directors he had hand-icked in order seat directors he controlled.”

“These directors will be Hunt’s bosses,” Mr. Beilke said. “If the GM is allowed to select his bosses, that is a clear conflict of interest.

“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,” Mr. 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 to withstand challenge if we’re to have any hope of reversing the mismanagement and dysfunction at Central Basin.”

Central Basin Board President Phil Hawkins said he “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.”

Board Director Art Chacon said he “spoke to several of my cities. 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.”

When we asked Mr. Hunt to comment, Joseph Legaspi, Central Basin Director of External Affairs  sent a “comment from the district.”

He said: “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.”

This story originated at www.loscerritosnews.net

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