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Metropolitan Water District says yes to stronger ethics program

August 20, 2013|By Robert Greene
  • The offices of the Central Basin Municipal Water District in Commerce.
The offices of the Central Basin Municipal Water District in Commerce. (Damian Dovarganes / Asssociated…)

The Times' editorial page on Sunday called for the Metropolitan Water District to adopt a package of ethics reforms that was on a committee agenda Monday and before the full board Tuesday.

It passed. Members of the district, which is made up of 26 cities and water agencies, adopted the measure by a vote of 64%. Members' votes are "weighted" by their size based on the number of customers they serve.

Members include the city of Los Angeles. And also the Central Basin Municipal Water District, which made the news this year in connection with an FBI raid on the office of state Sen. Ron Calderon. One of his brothers, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon, has been a consultant for the Central Basin District.

The Met's ethics program is led by Deena Ghaly, the former enforcement director of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission. She was appointed the district's ethics officer late last year, and since that time undertook a review of the existing programs for dealing with conflicts of interest, training and ethics advice, and crafted the new program.

A state law adopted in 1999 required the Met to establish an ethics office. Ghaly found that some of the required functions were in place but that work needed to be done to ensure that complaints were handled adequately, impartially and confidentially.

"These are public agencies spending ratepayer money for California's most precious resource, and their top officials must be prepared to account for their actions to someone other than themselves," The Times wrote in the editorial. "A more robust ethics program could catch problems when they are small, and would send a public message that water agencies can and do operate based on some principles other than self-dealing and cronyism."

The editorial noted that California has more than 400 local districts that supply water to farms, businesses and residents. Over the years, many of the agencies have been caught up in scandals over bribes, fraud and staff perks.


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