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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Local Review

Water Agency General Manager Placed on Leave

March 02, 2000

CERRITOS — The general manager of a water agency that state auditors and others have accused of charging exorbitant fees and wasting money has been placed on paid leave, agency officials said.

The board of directors of the Water Replenishment District of Southern California placed General Manager Bob Campbell on leave until March 17.

The district, which serves 43 cities in Los Angeles County, charges municipal and private water companies to pump water from aquifers. The district replenishes the underground supply with water purchased from the Metropolitan Water District.

A spokeswoman for the agency said the board members cannot comment on a personnel matter.

Campbell, who earns $140,000 a year and is in the middle of a three-year contract with the agency, said earlier this week that the board has yet to tell him why he was put on leave.

"I wish I could tell you," he said. "I'm as surprised as anyone. No one has said anything to me."

Campbell's attorney, Ronald Wilson, said he has written to the board, asking for an explanation. If he gets no response, Wilson said, he and Campbell may discuss possible litigation. Campbell was put on leave Monday.

Campbell and the agency have come under harsh criticism in the last year from state auditors and many of the agency's customer cities.

A December state audit said poor planning and questionable spending policies at the agency have led to excessive water fees and a massive cash reserve.

Officials from customer cities have complained bitterly about water fees that have increased as much as 200% since 1991--a hike that is passed on to residents and business owners.

Last month, the Lakewood City Council took action to secede from the water district, joining a breakaway movement that already includes Downey, Signal Hill, Santa Fe Springs and Pico Rivera.

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