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MWD Accused Of Forming A Shadow Government

Evening Edition

Above: Dennis Cushman, assistant general manager at San Diego County Water Authority, talks to "Evening Edition" about whether members of the Metropolitan Water District have been holding secret meetings.

Aired 3/15/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUEST

Dennis Cushman, Assistant General Manager, San Diego County Water Authority

Transcript

SD County Water Authority

Public records detailing SD County Water Authority allegations

The San Diego County Water Authority released hundreds of documents this week that it says show members of the Metropolitan Water District formed a “secret society” to deliberately raise the water rates paid by San Diego customers.

The Metropolitan Water District is the primary supplier for San Diego, as well as Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.

Dennis Cushman, assistant general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority, talked to KPBS about the allegations. He said the documents show members of the MWD board have been making policy decisions in private meetings that specifically exclude San Diego.

Leaders from water districts in Los Angeles, Orange County and Riverside “came together as ring leaders of this group, if you will, and brought in a number of other agencies, and they together can control the voting outcomes on the Metropolitan Water District board of directors,” Cushman said on KPBS Television’s “Evening Edition.”

After suspecting these meetings were taking place, Cushman said in October his group sent a public records request asking for information about the “secret” group, which he said was rumored to be named the “Anti-San Diego Coalition.”

The SDCWA received thousands of pages of documents, Cushman said, and shared them with the MWD board of directors earlier this week.

The water authority is also making the documents available to members of the public “so that everyone can look at what really happens behind the scenes at California’s largest water district and how that disadvantages us here in San Diego,” Cushman said.

Documents are available at mwdfacts.com.

The 20 agencies involved in this “clandestine effort” control 75 percent of the voting power on the MWD, Cushman said.

He said MWD has overcharged San Diego ratepayers by $40 million this year, which is then redistributed to other agencies in the form of reduced payments.

In response to the SDCWA’s allegations, the MWD issued a press release March 8.

“It is regrettable that San Diego County Water Authority is using ratepayer money to engage in political gamesmanship and questionable tactics outside of the deliberative process where all member agencies attempt to work collaboratively to resolve differences,” the release said.

Cushman said there is one word he agrees with in that statement: “deliberate.” But he disagrees with the word “all,” meaning all agencies are involved in the decisions.

“The records speak for themselves and they speak volumes about the secret society they created to exclude San Diego from the policy-making decisions at Metropolitan,” he said.

Orange County officials countered with their own accusations against San Diego, according to voiceofoc.org. They said San Diego officials take over meetings with “one dumb question after another.” The large number of questions forced other counties to create a separate group “in order to get any work done.”

A decision about increasing rates is expected on April 12. Cushman said San Diego County could see a 10.6 percent increase in its water rates.

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