MWD Chairman In The Tank

Please see the comments and corrections posted at the end of this story.

OCT. 13, 2010


An old fashioned method of water conservation was to put a brick in the water tank of your toilet.  The Metropolitan Water District, the regional water purveyor for the southern half of the state, put its presiding board chairman, Tim Brick, in the tank on Tuesday.

Brick, a water conservationist who paradoxically opposed the construction of the Peripheral Canal on the 1982 California election ballot, was ousted as chairman of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. He had served as chairman since 2005.

The MWD Board of Directors couldn’t have picked a more opposite member of their board for a replacement.

New Board Chair John V. Foley, is a former MWD board chairman, former general manager of two different Orange County water districts, a retired Army colonel who was active in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, with engineering and math degrees from West Point, MIT, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  Foley formerly beat out Brick for chairman of the board in 1993.

Brick came to MWD in 1985 from the city of Pasadena where he was chairman of the citizen’s advisory commission to the water and power department, was founder of a non-profit foundation for preservation of a local stream bed, served on the Pasadena AIDS coordinating committee, is a member of the Nature Conservancy, with a degree in philosophy from Cal State Los Angeles.  Brick was MWD’s first fully “environmental” chairman.

Brick made himself unpopular with some of MWD’s member water agencies and water ratepayers recently by punching through a 15 percent water rate hike to fund increases in retirement benefits for MWD employees and refusing to cut out costly landscaping and recreation capital projects opposed by its member agency the San Diego County Water Authority.

Although the vote for Foley was unanimous on the surface, apparently, the older coalition of LADWP, Pasadena, San Gabriel, Central and Coastal Basin water districts lost out to the Orange County, San Diego, Ventura and Inland Empire coalition.

Brick reportedly bowed out as chairman at the board meeting after finding out he didn’t have enough votes to be re-elected. Foley beat out Vice Chairman Tony Fellows from the San Gabriel Valley Water District since Fellows would only have gotten the votes Brick would have received.

It is unclear if Foley will replace MWD’s management team or form a layer of executive management over the existing managerial team as former board chairman Philip Pace did in 2001.  Whether MWD will shift away from environmentalism back toward engineering remains to be seen.

Brick also came under criticism in 2009 in his home town of Pasadena from David Powell, P.E., a Cal-Tech trained water engineer, former head of planning for the San Diego Office of the State Department of Water Resources, chief engineer for Bookman Edmonston Engineering, and court-appointed special master for the Colorado River Compact.  Powell questioned whether the water rate hikes were justified by Brick’s alleged drought and inferred that if Brick had not taken the lead to oppose the Peripheral Canal in 1982 the environmental problems of the Sacramento Delta would not have occurred. Powell later called for the city of Pasadena to pull out of its membership in the regional MWD if it was unable to plan for normal dry spells.

Brick also came under criticism for calling a normal dry spell a “drought” as a justification for the proposed $11.1 billion state water bond to have been put before the voters as Proposition 18 on the November 2010 ballot.

Due to the anti-tax mood of the electorate the Legislature and the governor pulled Prop. 18 from the ballot until 2012. Mr. Brick’s chances of re-election may have gone down the proverbial tube when Prop. 18 was pulled.  Prop. 18 did not include providing for the construction of the Peripheral Canal mainly due to opposition of environmentalists and Sacramento Delta interests.


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  1. J Sanchez
    J Sanchez 14 October, 2010, 06:15

    What a bunch of half truths mixed in with inaccuracies, incomplete research, and spin. Let’s start with the fact that Mr. Brick had just completed his second term as chairman and that MWD’s by-laws preclude a chairman from being elected to a third consectuive term without a special dispensation by a vote of the Board, something that has only happened once in MWD’s history. That is the least of the shortcuts in research committed by this author. Truly sad that some will believe this, or at least not know what is fiction and what little is fact in this opinion piece.

    Reply this comment
  2. Wayne Lusvardi
    Wayne Lusvardi 14 October, 2010, 20:38

    The following corrections, clarifications and additions should be noted:
    1. Mr. Brick will serve to the end of his term December 31, 2010.
    2. It should be noted that new MWD Board Chair John V. Foley’s opponent was not vice chair Tony Fellows but Suja Lowenthal, a city councilperson from the City of Long Beach. Long Beach is known for its aggressive water conservation programs while Orange County where Mr. Foley resides is known for water reclamation programs and semi-privatization of its water agencies.
    3. MWD’s proposed increase in retirement benefits was withdrawn but may be revived again in 2012 when the State Water Bond is to be put back on the ballot. Listen to Mr. Brick on this audio here:
    4. 70% of MWD’s staff are eligible for retirement and if all of them retired at once there would likely be a cost saving to MWD. However, if MWD staff retirements occur more gradually the cost savings may not be as great.

    Reply this comment
  3. John Galt
    John Galt 15 October, 2010, 08:32

    MWD: Arrogance is in water giant’s DNA


    The Union-Tribune report Tuesday about the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s dismissal of calls to rein in unnecessary spending is par for the course for the giant water agency. MWD has long shown contempt for the millions of ratepayers who use the water it supplies to 26 local districts in the counties of San Diego, Los Angeles , Orange, Ventura, Riverside and Santa Barbara.

    San Diego-area water customers have seen their bills soar as much as 65 percent over the past four years. MWD, meanwhile, has already approved 7.5 percent rate hikes for both 2011 and 2012. But when the San Diego County Water Authority and three other MWD clients questioned plans to spend more than $1 billion on capital projects that may not be essential, a top MWD official blithely said they were all prudent.

    Really? $8.8 million for landscaping at a La Verne treatment plant is prudent when MWD is constantly raising water rates on customers rocked by the sharp economic downturn? Spending $7.9 million for a marina, visitor center and RV park at a Riverside County lake is prudent for a water wholesaler?

    What former Santa Monica Mayor Christine Reed said about MWD in 1991 is as true as ever: “Met doesn’t have procedures or rules or an ethic about spending the money.” It just does what it wants to do and expects its clients to shut up and go along.

    This arrogance and imperiousness was on display in a mid- and late-1990s fight between the San Diego County Water Authority and MWD over the authority’s interest in securing new water supplies from Imperial County. MWD secretively paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to a public relations firm for what the Los Angeles Times called a “clandestine effort to discredit San Diego County water leaders.”

    It was on display in 1999 when an audit revealed the MWD had tried to hide a cost overrun of hundreds of millions of dollars on a reservoir project near Hemet.

    It was on display in 2004 when an audit concluded the MWD continued to disregard its own official procedures for purchasing and consulting contracts.

    It was on display in 2009 when MWD executives tried to quietly reward themselves and all MWD employees with a 25 percent retroactive pension increase that would have added $70 million in unfunded liabilities to a pension account that was already $400 million-plus in the red.

    Only a public uproar – helped by some sharp criticism from San Diego area water officials – prevented the MWD pension giveaway. Too bad public outrage is unlikely over a more arcane dispute about whether capital improvement projects are necessary.

    But here’s hoping local water officials stick to their guns. The MWD’s hostility to its customers will never change until it faces far more of the criticism it so amply deserves.


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  4. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 15 October, 2010, 14:55

    Editor: We are posting this rebuttal from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

    Dear Editor:

    A recent posting (“Water District Ousts Enviro Chairman”—Oct. 13) included numerous inaccurate statements regarding the deliberations by the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California at its meeting on Oct.12 with regard to selecting a chairman for a two-year term, effective Jan. 1, 2011:

    The current chairman, Timothy F. Brick, who has served with distinction for two consecutive terms, announced at the meeting that he would not pursue an Administrative Code rule waiver that would have allowed him to run for a third term.

    Metropolitan’s recent water rate increases do not cover enhanced employee benefits. A tentative memorandum of understanding was reached between Metropolitan’s four employee bargaining units and the district’s management team last fall. The tentative agreements, however, were withdrawn and were not presented to the board for its consideration.

    The Los Angeles delegation voted in support of Chairman-elect John V. Foley. In fact, the final vote of the full board was unanimous in support of Director Foley.

    Director Tony Fellow of Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District was not a candidate for chairman. Director Suja Lowenthal, the city of Long Beach’s representative, was nominated from the floor as a candidate. Director Fellow voted for Chairman-elect Foley.

    This CalWatchdog entry fell below basic standards of accuracy that all news outlets—whether on-line or print—should seek to achieve.

    Very truly yours,

    (Original signed)

    Linda Waade

    Deputy General Manager of External Affairs

    Reply this comment

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