Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán called in to the Water Replenishment District (WRD) Board’s December 3 board meeting concerned about the hiring of a new General and Assistant General Manager. She stressed the board has a great reputation and to ensure it continues, she requested they postpone action on the hiring of the two positions until a sufficient employment search could be performed.
The WRD of Southern California has a good reputation, and I have appreciated your commitment to clean and affordable water as we’ve worked together on securing federal funding for critical projects,” said Barragán. “To maintain that reputation, I hope you reconsider this action to allow the public more time to review the candidates for these positions and allow the recruitment firm to conduct a thorough search.”
Board president Vera Robles-Dewitt was behind the agenda item, for board consideration, with the hope of foregoing retaining a recruitment form to conduct a nationwide search for a new General Manager. Dewitt is instead suggesting hiring Rob Beste as General Manager, which is contingent upon hiring Carson Mayor Albert Robles as the assistant general manager.
Robles is a prior board member of WRD and when forced to step down, after intervention of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, he suggested the appointment of Dewitt to his seat. Dewitt won re-election to the seat last month.
Robles lost his re-election campaign to remain mayor of the city of Carson and according to Barragan’s comments, the public has a right to leadership with the necessary qualifications to lead the water board and to ensure transparency with an open recruitment process.
“I think there are procedural issues with this item, and a condition of the same salaries for these appointments,” said Leslie Purcell. “The current GM retires in March but these proposed hiring would be effective January 2021.”
Multiple cities who are serviced by WRD sent letters voicing their “strong concerns” that Albert Robles doesn’t possess the necessary technical skills to assume the position of Asst. GM. They all urged a nationwide recruitment for both positions.
Board members Dewitt, Sergio Calderon and Willard Murray voted in favor of discussing Robles’ appointment to serve alongside the current General Manager whose contract is up in 2021.
The board has continued the meeting to tomorrow morning.