Petty corruption all too common at CA special districts

Petty corruption all too common at CA special districts

corruptThe California government agencies that provide water, sewage, trash and other special services are often oblivious to ethical norms and tone-deaf to how their actions look to the outside world.

Part of it may be these agencies don’t get the same scrutiny as City Councils and county Boards of Supervisors. But a lot of it is also a sense of insulation from consequences. The larger, more important special districts are run by political appointees from member city governments who face heavy groupthink pressure to conform and not make waves.

In San Diego County, this mindset is evident in two of the pettiest, low-rent scandals you’ll ever see. The CEOs of both the Port of San Diego and the San Diego Convention Center engaged in blatant nepotism.

Really? In 2014?


In the first case

Port of San Diego CEO Wayne Darbeau is already under a lengthy personnel review for obtaining his son a summer job with Pasha Automotive, a major port tenant with whom the port was negotiating significant business deals.

Now, it turns out, Darbeau’s son’s best friend got a job there, too.

 In the second case ….

The son of the San Diego Convention Center’s president and chief executive was hired — and promoted — by the organization even though his primary work experience was in dance.

CEO Carol Wallace’s daughter-in-law also is employed by the convention center.

Wallace declined to be interviewed about the employment status of her son, event coordinator Earnest Wallace, or her daughter-in-law, convention services manager Gerrica Gray-Johnson.

Both stories are from the U-T San Diego.

But when it comes to obliviousness/indifference to opinion, nothing will ever top the actions of the biggest special district of them all: the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies water to 19 million customers of special agencies from Santa Barbara to Riverside to the Mexican border.

The MWD not only attempted to spike the pension formula for all its nearly 2,000 employees in 2009 — long after concerns about pension sustainability had emerged. It also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for a PR campaign to try to grease the path to approval of its insane proposal. It did so at a time it was imposing massive rate hikes on its clients.

But the Los Angeles Times didn’t think it was news.

Special districts deserve at least as much media scrutiny as City Councils and county supervisors. Those government bodies are actively watched by community activists, at least for the most part. But the folks providing water, sewage service, vector control, etc., often operate in the dark — which they like.

This isn’t just the media’s fault. The government agencies that appoint officials to these districts’ boards are often indifferent to their behavior.

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