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Water director resigns post

Complaint to DA's office proved correct that he could not be on two boards.

February 04, 2010|By Melanie Hicken

LA CRESCENTA — Richard Atwater has resigned his longtime post on the Crescenta Valley Water District Board of Directors following a decision from the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office that his simultaneous seat on another water board represented a potential conflict of interest.

Atwater, who was reelected to the Crescenta Valley board in November, resigned last month after the district attorney’s office, acting on an anonymous complaint, determined that his concurrent service on the Foothill Municipal Water District Board of Directors was incompatible and in violation of state law.

“Unfortunately, I can’t be an elected official on both boards,” Atwater, general manager of the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, said Wednesday.

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The incompatibility centered on Foothill Municipal’s sale of water to the Crescenta Valley Water District, said Dave Demerjian, head deputy attorney for the district attorney’s Public Integrity Division.

“That creates the potential for a conflict,” he said.

While the dual roles are not criminal, the district attorney’s office would have sought permission to file a civil lawsuit to remove Atwater from the board if he had not voluntarily resigned, Demerjian said.

“We always give them the opportunity of stepping down first,” he said.

District officials are seeking applicants for the vacant spot. The board will appoint Atwater’s replacement during or after its March 2 meeting, officials said.

Atwater, who has served on the Crescenta Valley water board since 2003 and the Foothill board since 2006, was the sole incumbent to retain his seat in November’s Crescenta Valley election, which was the most competitive race in recent years.

Incumbents Charles Beatty and Vasken Yardemian were unseated by challengers James Bodnar and Kerry Erickson, who was the election’s top vote-getter.

Atwater said it was unfortunate the anonymous complaint came after the election, which means his replacement will be appointed by the board as opposed to publicly elected.

“All through the election, I told everyone in the community that I was on both boards,” he said. “Obviously, people re-elected me because of my expertise on water matters. It’s just public service. There is no other motivation than trying to help solve our water problems.”

On Wednesday, Bodnar said he was surprised by Atwater’s departure.

“He has made significant contributions to the district during his service as director and I am very saddened by his resignation,” he said. “When I campaigned last November as a director on the board, my hope was to be sitting next to director Atwater.”

Atwater said he chose to stay on the Foothill Municipal board partly because of the agency’s $63-million plan to increase local water supplies in order to reduce dependence on more expensive imported water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Foothill Municipal officials have proposed a $20-million bond to help fund the programs.

Atwater said he plans to continue to stay involved with the Crescenta Valley Water District as he represents the community at Foothill Municipal.

To apply for the director position, a candidate must be a Crescenta Valley resident. Letters of interest and resumes must be submitted to the Crescenta Valley Water District by Feb. 26.


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