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