By Karen Brainard
KUSI News’ Michael Turko said he did not send an email to Ramona Municipal Water District stating he was investigating the district’s fire mitigation fees.
The email, sent on Sept. 11 to RMWD General Manager David Barnum and four of the five water board directors, was labeled “Ramona Water District Missing Money.” The email recipients did not include Board President Bryan Wadlington.
“This appears to actually come from my email account,” said Turko. “I did not send that email.”
The author of the email, identified as Turko, said he or she was investigating a story about RMWD’s recent increase in fire mitigation fees and asked Barnum to comment on how money disappeared from the beginning balance of the fund shown in the budget from 2009.
Barnum told the Sentinel on Wednesday that the email contained incorrect information. Fire mitigation fees did not increase and it is up to the county board of supervisors to increase them, he said.
The fire mitigation fund had a negative balance due to the construction of Fire Station 82 and the purchase of an ambulance in 2009, but that fund has been replenished using fire mitigation fees and property tax revenues, as approved by the RMWD board, Barnum said.
Turko, who learned about the email after Barnum replied to it, said what bothers him the most is that someone sent a solid request for a response that resulted in a waste of time, and therefore a waste of money for the district.
Barnum said the district agrees with Turko “that we have both been victimized by an unscrupulous meddler” and that this is a very serious issue.
“Addressing this frivolous request for information required research by district staff resulting in an unfortunate waste of valuable and limited public resources in the community of Ramona,” Barnum said. “We are in communication with Mr. Turko and have strongly encouraged him to take all the necessary steps to find the culprit(s). The Ramona Municipal Water District is happy to work with him and the authorities in the investigation of this matter.”
Turko said he and his team are investigating and anyone with tips may call him at 858-571-3453. Tips may also be called in to RMWD Administrative Services Manager Mike Callahan, 760-789-1330.