Water board censures one of its members

By Karen Brainard

In a rare circumstance, Ramona Municipal Water District Board voted 4-1 to adopt a resolution censuring the conduct of one of its directors.

A resolution of censure regarding Director Kit Kesinger’s communication with a customer was read by board President Bryan Wadlington at a recent board meeting.

“It was a very uncomfortable matter,” Wadlington told the Sentinel.

The resolution states that the board finds that Kesinger “has engaged in unauthorized and unacceptabe conduct by engaging in commuications indicating that he could act unilaterally on any matter and without approval of the majority of the board.”

It also states that he engaged in “unauthorized and unacceptable conduct by making any statement alleged or determined to be defamatory.”

The communications involved a customer, George Newman, who appealed to the board on Dec. 13, 2011, for forgiveness of the balance of a water bill and a refund on past large water bills that he claimed were due to a faulty water meter. District staff reported they found the meter to be operating properly, and a hose bib was frozen in an open position.

Newman, however, said he has experienced several sudden spikes in his water bills over the past 10 years and, as a former manager of a city, where he was responsible for water and sewer, had experience with faulty meters.

Although Kesinger voted with the other four board members to deny Newman’s request due to lack of evidence, Kesinger said to Newman after the vote was taken: ”I’d be happy to work with you outside this meeting to see if you have more convincing evidence.”

Newman began corresponding with Kesinger by email and some of the emails were sent to other recipients, including Wadlington.

The board president said some of Newman’s emails attacked him personally, as well as the other board members, and Kesinger put himself in a precarious position by corresponding.

“He spoke counter to the board’s finding,” Wadlington said.

Wadlington added that it would have been more appropriate if Kesinger had told Newman that the board would be happy to look at evidence substantiating the claim.

Concerned about the board’s role in regards to the law, Wadlington took the matter to RMWD’s legal counsel, which led to the resolution.

The resolution, he said, puts Kesinger on public notice that similar actions could lead to legal actions.

“It removes the board from any legal responsibility to defend Director Kesinger from anything that goes forward from this matter,” said Wadlington.

The resolution states that Kesinger is authorized to represent or speak on behalf of the district only on positions, issues, or matters that have been adopted by a majority of the board; the board president is authorized to give notification that Kesinger has no authority except when sitting as a board member at a lawful session; and the board president will monitor his conduct.

Kesinger, who was the lone vote against the resolution, told the Sentinel he will comment at a later date.

   
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