Did someone illegally access Imperial Irrigation District e-mails?
It’s the question an investigation by IID’s ethics officer is set to answer, along with the necessary steps forward, which may include a civil or criminal lawsuit.
The Board of Directors on Tuesday approved proceeding with a look into how e-mails from one director’s computer were taken and given out to members of the public. Board President John Pierre Menvielle, whose computer is the subject of the inquiry, made the motion before much discussion took place.
Menvielle had alleged his e-mails were illegally taken from his district computer, said Vance Taylor, assistant general counsel and ethics officer. If a theft occurred, it could be a serious matter that may be turned over to state or federal officials for criminal charges.
The e-mails include one that was read at the board meeting April 17, which some claim show an open meeting act violation. The e-mail between then-assistant to the general manager Kevin Kelley and Menvielle can be seen as going over how two other board members could vote, though district officials say that no vote was set to take place after the 2009 e-mail.
Mike Morgan, a Brawley farmer who read the first e-mail at the April meeting, said that he doesn’t think a self-examination by internal staff is fair. It won’t be transparent if reports are done in closed session and not before the public. He also questioned that if the e-mail shows criminality among directors, wouldn’t the person who took the e-mail be a whistleblower.
Other concerns brought include limiting the investigation.
Director Anthony Sanchez asked that the district stop at the e-mail issue.
“Just because when one issue arises it doesn’t mean there isn’t bad behavior elsewhere,” he said.
However, both Taylor and Director Stella Mendoza said this investigation should be more focused and maybe brought back at a different time.
This is the second time in the past year-and-a-half the district has investigated its computer system. Last year concerns were brought up about software found on one computer, SpectorSoft, an Internet-monitoring software. However, the results of that search were inconclusive.
Director Jim Hanks brought up the SpectorSoft search as he spoke Tuesday. He asked whether the new investigation would look at only theft of the files, or also negligence in getting rid of the computers or whether the person who released the information was a whistleblower.
Hanks was critical of information passing between only one board member and the district’s legal counsel for the water transfer, which is one of the points those bringing forth the e-mails are making.
“Is the issue someone taking these e-mails or is the issue what they’re revealing?” Hanks asked, adding that making decisions by e-mail before meetings robs the residents of the representation they voted for. “… There is no super director.”
Staff Writer Elizabeth Varin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-337-3441.
Here are three things that happened at Tuesday’s Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors meeting
1 The board voted 4-0 to approve a proposal to raise salaries to make the positions more competitive and bring on more positions in the district’s system operations center where the energy system is run from.
2 In a preliminary forecast of what will come in 2013, Chief Financial Officer Greg Broeking warned that the district may have to increase the base rate by 1 cent per kilowatt-hour for capital project funding. The announcement, made during the energy forecast for 2012, may start discussion about the rate structure.
3 Staff presented progress made on putting in place the first phase of the district’s system conservation plan, including how some of the process and all of the planning for the request for proposals has been brought in-house instead of outside consultants.
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