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December 7, 2020

L.A. Congressional Delegation Urges Transparency and a Thorough Process as Water Replenishment District Hires New Management

“The process to replace the retiring General Manager should be public and completely transparent.”

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                      

December 7, 2020

 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán was joined by colleagues in the Los Angeles-area congressional delegation in urging the Water Replenishment District of Southern California to ensure a transparent and thorough process in hiring WRD’s new management team.

 

In a joint letter to WRD’s Board of Directors, Congresswoman Barragán and her colleagues wrote that they are “deeply troubled” by the Board’s action to hire a new management team at their meeting on Thursday.

 

“We feel the Board’s conduct was legally questionable and not in the best interest of our constituents. The actions could lead to an overall loss of faith in the Board’s ability to carry out its duties in a free, fair and transparent manner,” the members of Congress wrote.

 

Congresswoman Barragán was joined on the letter by L.A.- area U.S. Reps. Alan Lowenthal, Ted Lieu, Grace Napolitano, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Linda Sánchez, Maxine Waters, Judy Chu and Gil Cisneros.

 

The joint letter was sent to the WRD Board today, in advance of the continuation of their Board meeting scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday, December 8).

 

On Thursday, Congresswoman Barragán called into WRD’s Board meeting to initially express her concerns.

 

The Water Resources Replenishment District is the largest groundwater agency in the State of California and serves the critically important function of managing and protecting local groundwater resources for millions of L.A. County residents.

 

Full text of the letter from the L.A.-area delegation is below:

 

December 7, 2020

 

Board of Directors

Water Replenishment District of Southern California

4040 Paramount Blvd.

Lakewood, CA, 90712

 

Dear Honorable Board Members:

 

Each of us represents cities that the Water Replenishment District (“WRD”) serves and we have worked with your agency to support WRD’s water projects and programs.  As the largest groundwater agency in the State of California, managing and protecting local groundwater resources for millions of residents is critically important. The sterling reputation of the WRD has been sustained but we write because we believe it will be damaged and result in the loss of the public trust.

 

In particular, we are deeply troubled by your actions taken at your December 3, 2020 Board Meeting to forgo a transparent search of qualified applicants to replace the WRD’s general manager. We are further concerned that the Board acted on a motion that was not agendized so that the public would not have the opportunity to engage and provide public feedback in line with the intention of the Brown Act. Despite advice by WRD’s own attorney during the Board meeting that the motion could not be made in compliance with the law, you intentionally disregarded it and moved forward with the new unnoticed motion to appoint a second WRD general manager effective January 1.

 

The process to replace the retiring General Manager should be public and completely transparent.  The public must have certainty that the Board is acting in the best interest of those that they serve and that an agency with the magnitude of protecting our groundwater has considered candidates with the appropriate background and expertise in complex water issues. We feel the Board’s conduct was legally questionable and not in the best interest of our constituents. The actions could lead to an overall loss of faith in the Board’s ability to carry out its duties in a free, fair and transparent manner.

 

The public also needs time to examine qualifications of proposed candidates and have the opportunity to communicate their comments and concerns to WRD. This rushed process risks the Board not identifying suitable candidates with the proper background and expertise to address the critical issues that come before the Board. The complexity of groundwater projects and importance of WRD to more than four million people requires an experienced manager in the field run the agency. It should not be a political landing spot.

 

It is also our understanding that the Board already hired a recruitment firm to conduct a search for candidates.  This leads to concerns about funds already expended and raises questions as to what circumstances led to this change to no longer use a recruitment firm.

 

As counsel to WRD noted during the meeting, WRD’s current experienced general manager has a contract through late 2021. The hiring of a second general manager to begin on January 1, 2021 could result in the waste of taxpayer dollars or worse, a lawsuit. The inappropriate motion also results in the WRD having two paid general managers as of January 1, 2021.

 

The conduct by the Board raises serious issues that may be best investigated by the public integrity unit to preserve the public trust. We would encourage the Board to reconsider how it conducts its business, whether it is to undergo a transparent search process for a new General Manager or noticing items in compliance with the Brown Act so that the public trust is maintained and not abused.

 

Sincerely,

 

Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44)

Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32)

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40)

Rep. Linda T. Sánchez (CA-38)

Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43)

Rep. Ted Lieu (CA-33)

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47)

Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27)

Rep. Gil Cisneros (CA-39)

 

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Nanette Diaz Barragán is proud to represent California’s 44th Congressional District, which includes the communities of Carson, Compton, Florence-Firestone, Lynwood, North Long Beach, Rancho Dominguez, San Pedro, South Gate, Walnut Park, Watts, Willowbrook and Wilmington