Water Wars (Regional Desal Corruption): Report on Bad Acts by Steve Collins, Jim Heitzman, Curtis Weeks, RMC and Cal-AM

The report to the County Supervisors about Monterey County Water Resources Agency Director Steve Collins’ Conflicts of Financial Interests was released yesterday.

Steve Collins (at Herald website)

Steve Collins (at Herald website)

It states

“. . . the facts we have discovered to date are extremely troubling.”

Some of those troubling facts include –

“…we have uncovered evidence that Collins participated in governmental decisions as a director of MCWRA while he simultaneously was being paid for his time by RMC.

For part of that time, Marina Coast Water District reimbursed RMC for its payments to Collins.

This conduct raises questions, which we are continuing to analyze, about the validity of certain contracts that the MCWRA approved as part of the Regional Desalination Project, including the Settlement Agreement, Water Purchase Agreement, and Reimbursement Agreement.”

“RMC continued to pay the Collins invoices, even after MCWD refused and after becoming fully aware that Collins had been billing for time spent performing his duties as an MCWRA director. . .”

“Government Code section 1090 prohibits a public officer from being financially interested in a contract made in both his private and public capacities, and the Political Reform Act (Gov. Code, § 87100 et seq.) prohibits a public official from participating in a decision in which he has a financial interest.”

Here’s the money trail as we understand it –

1. Acting as a voting government official, Steve Collins wrongly and willfully billed (and was paid by) RMC for his time as a public official, then

2. RMC billed (and was paid by) Marina Coast Water District, then

3. Marina Coast Water District billed (and was paid until August 2010) the County Water Resources Agency, then

4. The County Water Resources Agency billed (and was paid by) Cal-AM, then

5. Cal-Am billed us ! – it showed up in our Water Bills.

It gets worse. While Collins has been singled out (he’s hired a criminal defense lawyer), it appears that Marina Coast Water District ‘s Heitzman actually started the whole bad act rolling.

Heitzman is in deep — Marina Coast Water District (the Agency known as “The Keystone Cops” and “The Three Stooges” for their failed 1999 Desal) General Manager Jim Heitzman not only knew of this Conflict of Financial Interest – he got it started.

Jim Heitzman, the General Manager of MCWD (and getting the biggest government salary in Monterey County), asked RMC to hire Stephen Collins in January 2010 as a subcontractor.” (COFI Report page 2)

Maybe that’s why Heitzman didn’t tell any officials about it.

MCWD’s Heitzman – Guilty or Incompetent?

So Heitzman was either colluding with the probable criminal acts or didn’t understand it was wrong. This means he is either guilty of collusion — or incompetent to protect his agency and Directors from criminal acts.

Yet Heitzman remains the highest paid public official in Monterey County !

RMC appears guilty for knowingly paying government official Collins after they knew Collins was billing for time acting as a public official; and of course they probably knew exactly what they were doing when Heitzman asked them to hire Collins. (I wouldn’t be surprised if either RMC or Collins pushed Heitzman to do this)

Cal-Am is also culpable because they paid invoices stating that Collins was a sub-contractor while clearly knowing Collins was a government official involved in these improper approvals.

MCWRA’s Curtis Weeks – Incompetent or Aiding Criminal acts?

Then there’s Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA) – where Collins was voting as a government official on their Board of Directors. General Manager Curtis Weeks (very cozy with Collins) could and should have stopped this.

Was Weeks closing his eyes to the probable criminal acts (because he wanted Collins help) or didn’t Weeks understand it was wrong?

Doesn’t this mean Weeks is potentially guilty of either incompetence to protect his agency and Directors from criminal acts, or guilty of aiding those criminal acts ?

There is Good News

The most amazing part is that probably the most politically corrupt local agency, the County of Monterey – did two good acts.

They: 1) authorized this report – and 2) released it to the public. Historically, the County Supervisors support and defend developers and corruption as far as they can – and then some.

Ordinarily, the Supervisors would have weathered the tepid media drizzle and none of this would have come to light unless unpaid activists did the months or years of painstaking research.

So we have to give credit where it is due –

Thank you Monterey County Supervisors for investigating and reporting this subject – both surprisingly healthy actions.

For more context see: “Regional Desal Implode Begins: Yes, We Warned You”

and – yes there’s more to come; and No, it won’t be pretty.

OK, ok . . . just to get you started –

1) When did Collins’ lead staff person know about it? MCWRA’s General Manager Curtis Weeks and Collins were caught in a separate scandal by the Herald’s Jim Johnson – when they were found improperly spending money on travel and entertainment. Only a few years ago Monterey County’s Election Supervisor went to jail for essentially identical actions, and

2) Will Curtis Weeks and Collins be charged and tried for theft of taxpayer funds – just as County Election official Tony Anchundo was in 2007? If the amount they charged was more than $1,000 – it seems to be a criminal felony.

Weeks apparently tried to head off criminal charges by paying the money back – but I doubt one can buy favor from District Attorney Dean Flippo.

3) Why is Supervisor Potter ducking all questions about this – and when will he answer a few? (Update May 2012: Collins filed suit against the County Supervisors individually saying Potter urged him to consult on the project “to prevent Potter’s district from ‘becoming a desert‘ and that Potter expected Collins to get compensation for services as a consultant.)

4) When did Supervisor Calcagno know about it ? Calcagno appointed Collins to a Pajaro Valley Water District committee in January 2011. Who appointed Collins to the MCWRA?
(Update May 2012: Collins filed suit against the County Supervisors individually saying the idea of hiring Collins as a paid consultant did not originate with General Manager Weeks. It originated with Supervisor Calcagno.)

5) What do you think is the proper way to deal with government agency General Managers who are either incompetent to advise their Directors against making criminal actions – or who are assisting with criminal actions ?

In spite of all the Developer community’s self-inflicted foot-blasting — there is some

Even Better News

EIR - Genuine Water Solution

EIR - Genuine Water Solution

Now seems to be a good time to reflect on a genuine solution to our Peninsula water supply, a project that is quietly moving forward – the “Right-sized” project by our local Water Management District.

Summary of Preliminary Findings Regarding Director Stephen Collins’ Business Relationship with RMC Water and Environment and Marina Coast Water District

This entry was posted in Bad Acts, Bureaucratic Fraud, Coastal Protection, Collins Corruption, Good Acts, Growth, Impacts, Incompetence, Law, Staffocracy, Water, Water Supply and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Water Wars (Regional Desal Corruption): Report on Bad Acts by Steve Collins, Jim Heitzman, Curtis Weeks, RMC and Cal-AM

  1. RobertWilliams says:

    Supervisor Calcagno is an old style politician of the dirtiest sort. Anything that he is promoting is because of his own interest or others that he makes deals with and they are getting huge advantages and always at the cost of the common person and taxpayer.

    This Desalinization plant is a monstrous sham. Customers directly and taxpayers will end up paying a fortune for this unnecessary and unnatural project. Development has been intentionally inappropriate to create this propped up need for such a water program.

    It is dirty, polluting, noisy and the most inefficient and costly method possible.

    Huge money will be made on its construction and always paid by common people.

    The same stories were told in Santa Barbara and millions and millions of dollars were spent on a desal plant and it was never even put into operation.

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  5. Darla Lehman says:

    This is a piece of shameless yellow journalism, inflammatory and inaccurate. Meant to transfer the blame, and point fingers.

    The real issue is a source of clean and abundant, and long lasting water supply for the area.

    Takes hard work, future ahead looking, and imagination. hard work, hard work, and perseverance.

    Is that stuff supposed to be free? No salaries involved? Contractors donate their services.

    Collins did wrong. Fire him and move on. Trying to implicate other agencies and people is a maneuver.

    Replace the greedy and go forward. Address the problems. Stay focused on the real problem of safe, clean water. Not for builders and developers, but for ordinary citizens who live there., right now. In their ordinary houses. Not next to a mall or golf course in Fort Ord, but right now, where they live right now.

    A little less head hunting, mob lynch mentality and envy, and a little more focus on how to get the job done, of providing a water source for years to come. A little less sensationalism, and a bit more just the facts, reporting. This kind of reporting is an insult to the average intelligent citizen.

    • David says:

      Thank you for your complaint Darla,

      Unfortunately your note needs a bit of work on its logic.
      And you didn’t even read the whole article did you?

      1. You claim the article is “inaccurate,” but fail to point out a single error or provide references.

      2. You want everyone to Stop Investigating Crimes by officials other than Collins.

      And “Trying to implicate other agencies and people is a maneuver.“

      Why? What is wrong with following all the facts?

      Can you seriously claim you want to stop anyone from investigating if crimes were committed by officials besides Collins in the course of approving the most expensive water on the face of the Planet?

      3. “Replace the greedy and go forward.”

      But that contradicts your earlier demand.

      How can we get rid of the Greedy until we know who they are?
      How can we know who all the Greedy are until we follow all the facts?

      4. “Money changes Hands – so what?”

      You can’t seriously be advocating for excusing money changing hands illegally?

      5. Focus on Solutions – water. for ordinary citizens Not for builders and developers

      Were you so upset you didn’t read to the end of the article ?

      There you can read about a fabulous Peninsula Water Solution that has a 2 year head start on all other water solutions, and will be cheaper for ratepayers. Unfortunately for developers, it doesn’t provide a lot of extra water for building.

      Which bring me to your phrase that caught my attention “water for ordinary citizens Not for builders and developers.”

      Why would you promote the project with the most expensive water on the face of the Planet ($9,000 / acre foot)? And ignore the cheaper and faster to build solution ?

      That is exactly what a myopic developer would advocate.

      6. Finally, your wild and baseless rhetoric really boils down to – is called Censorship.

      You don’t want the public to know what’s really going on.

      And that speaks for itself.

  6. Darla Lehman says:

    Who besides Collins received money based on illegal activities? At the time of his (Collins) hire did he say “by the way. I will be billing 3 or 4 entities for one service and receive payments from many sources for one service”. Hiring someone who turns out to be a criminal is not a crime. It is clear when the crime was discovered the payments to the criminal discontinued. Implicating several other people, is just a ploy to discredit other agencies, in order to improve the looks of some other entity with a water plan.

    Censorship and embellished reporting are two different animals. The public has a right to know everything. Without bias, envy, or excessive exclamation points thrown in to whip up some illiterate mob mentality.

    “A little more focus on getting the job done” does not preclude any other ways and means. Don’t twist my words. Or do so if you wish, which is another insult to the public, twisting and spinning.

    This is sensational reporting with a twist to promote another water solution (which, who knows, perhaps with whom you are invested?) not factual. Written with a clear slant, and it insults the public and their right to know.

    It is apparent, mud slinging on behalf of someone else or group of someone elses who wish to develop a water source and sway public opinion to support their plan.

    Whatever the plan is going to be, it isn’t fair to the public to slant, and twist, and misrepresent the facts, and tell an incomplete story. Let each, stand on their own, state their story, all the facts gathered and let the public judge when its time, based on real and educated reporting, without flourishing punctuation.

    • David says:

      Hello Darla,

      I thank you for your note, though I hope you read the whole article and maybe the references before complaining for a third time.

      1. Once again you complain that I have somehow misrepresented facts.

      Which ones – where? If you can point out where anything is wrong – I really will fix it. However, I’m still waiting.

      2. You are right that “Hiring someone who turns out to be a criminal is not a crime.

      3. However contrary to your claim – it is NOT at all clear that when the crime was discovered — payments to the criminal were discontinued – because we don’t know when those paying him (RMC, Marina Coast and Cal-AM) were first aware of the crime.

      RMC stood to gain 28 million dollars; Marina Coast would have gotten a half Billion dollar project – that they didn’t pay for.

      Those are non-trivial financial incentives where it is not difficult to imagine officials involved (who fight open government) might try to ignore a crime; where they might imagine they have “pausible deniability.”

      4. You ask “Who besides Collins received money based on illegal activities?”

      We don’t know yet – because no one is talking. If as you pose, it is merely a ploy to discredit other agencies – you must not be familiar with the systemic corruption in the agencies involved. The only difference is this time they got caught – by the press.

      In any case Collins’ trial starts in a few weeks and I hope his lawyer’s research and questions have turned up definitive evidence – either way.

      3. You charge “This is sensational reporting with a twist to promote another water solution not factual. Written with a clear slant, and it insults the public and their right to know.”

      Except for the “not factual” part – thank you for the compliment.

      Unfortunately for you, in two attempts you have failed to identify a single factual flaw. Unless you or someone else can – the article is apparently factual and accurate.

      Unlike most news articles and even Blogs – the article has links to original sources of the most important facts – so you can verify the facts provided.

      4. You wonder if I am promoting “ . . . another water solution (which perhaps with whom you are invested?)”

      A: Wrong again. You are right that I do support a genuine solution to our Peninsula water supply, a project that is quietly moving forward – the “Right-sized” project by our local Water Management District. But I would not personally financially benefit from it by as much as a penny more than all other peninsula residents.

      I would realize the large financial benefit of not paying for the world’s most expensive water – the Marina project – the project you apparently want.

      5. You also believe my articles are read by “illiterate” people.

      That reminds me of a Bumper sticker —

      “Illiterate? Write for our Free Brochure.”

      I laughed at that one for at least a decade before I realized it has a second irony. (Illiterate people can’t read it or write about it.)

      You write “This kind of reporting is an insult to the average intelligent citizen.”

      Actually in my judgment your calling several hundred (maybe a thousand by now) local readers “illiterate” is the insult.

      You are free to simply decline to read here.

      6. Finally, your most serious charge is that I employ “flourishing punctuation.”

      Ow ! Darn. I’m caught !

      Yes, guilty as charged !

      There are two exclamation points in the original article (and I probably wanted to use even more) !

      Since you wondered in print if I have a financial conflict of interest here (No I don’t), I can’t help noticing that you advocate that “ordinary citizens” pay for the most expensive water project possible and you strongly oppose investigation into other potentially guilty parties.

      So I get to wonder — Do you have a conflict of interest here?
      You claim you only want water “Not for builders and developers, but for ordinary citizens who live there.”

      But are you related to any of the potential wrong doers, or the agencies or corporations involved? Or are you affiliated with the development industry – or merely just want “ordinary citizens” to pay outrageous amounts of money ($9,000 / acre foot) for water (so purely as a side effect) — developers can run roughshod on our Peninsula?

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