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Stories, Water District, Firm in Line of Fire

April 18, 1993

Your editorial ("Housecleaning With a Feeble Broom" April 13) criticizing the Santa Margarita Water District's personnel actions shows that The Times prefers to intentionally delete pertinent facts that your readers deserve to know.

As you correctly editorialized, the board has placed Mr. (Walter W.) Knitz and Mr. (Michael P.) Lord on paid administrative leave until we, not The Times, determine when policies or laws have been broken. As we stated in our release of April 9, these employees were placed on paid leave based upon the advice of our attorney. The Times had this knowledge in a written statement immediately following our board action. The Times has neglected to report this fact properly in all stories subsequent to our April 9 action. Your failure to accurately report our action causes me to wonder if you are engaged in selective reporting, or there is simply editorial bias at The Times.

It is well established in labor law that if we had placed Mr. Knitz and Mr. Lord on unpaid leave, or reduced their salaries, the district would have been exposed to a wrongful termination labor action. Such a lawsuit could end up costing ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in judgments and attorney's fees. In my view, spending a little money now to protect the ratepayers from a large judgment later is the prudent thing to do.

We place great trust in the fairness of your readers once they have been presented with all the facts. And we hope your readers realize that everyone is entitled to a fair hearing and due process.

DON B. SCHONE

Chairman, Board of Directors

Santa Margarita Water District

Mission Viejo

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