BY BRIAN HEWS • June 20, 2020
Hews Media Group has obtained a letter from Metropolitan Water District of Southern California General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger addressed to California State Senator Sam Bradford (D-Carson) outlining MWD’s position on Bradford’s SB-625, the bill he co-sponsored with Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia that would put Commerce-based Central Basin Municipal Water into receivership and dissolve the board of directors, five of which are elected.
The controversial receivership bill is quickly winding its way through legislature, pushed by Garcia, in spite of the fact that Central Basin has $9 million in reserves, owns an $8 million building free and clear, while an independent auditor recently issued a “clean” opinion on the District’s financial statements.
The June 10 letter was titled “Central Basin Receivership-Watch and Engage as Needed to Protect Metropolitan.”
Kightlinger first expressed that the MWD Board voted to remain “neutral” on Bradford’s bill.
MWD’s Board consists of 26 member agencies including 14 cities, 11 municipal water districts, and 1 county water authority.
There are 38 board seats occupied by directors from each member agency, the number of board seats based on the assessed property valuation inside each member’s borders.
Kightlinger wanted to stay out of the fray, not defending a member, while letting Bradford know the WRD will remain neutral, “Historically,Metropolitan has not engaged in legislative policies that deal directly with an individual member agency’s governance matters, and the board reaffirmed that position at their meeting this week.”
Kightlinger also let Bradford know about the “extensive public comment” during board and committee meetings expressing concern that the bill would disenfranchise communities within Central Basin’s area, and the “swiftness” with which the bill is making its way through the legislature.
But then Kightlinger, who evidently researched the topic, sent a shot across the proverbial bow that will be heard by many.
Citing a 2007 Attorney General Opinion, number 05-1113, Kightlinger wrote that if SB-625 passes and WRD takes over Central Basin, “a concurrent membership on the WRD Board and the Central Basin Board constitutes an incompatible office.”
Central Basin currently has two seats on the MWD board, consequently if the bill is passed, no WRD board members could be appointed to the MWD board seats.
But given that WRD took over Central Basin, the appointments would fall to the WRD Board, and they could appoint anyone to the two MWD board seats.
Kightlinger also wrote that MWD wanted nothing to do with Los Angeles County Local Agency Formation Commission’s overall review, but wanted input on “to provide technical input to any potential impact to our agency.”
That would include money given for conservation and other local programs.
“We would want to ensure that those funds are used for their intended purposes,” wrote Kightlinger.