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SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Don’t Let Plambeck Fool You | 07-22-2016
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Commentary by Thomas Campbell, CLWA
| Friday, Jul 22, 2016

tom_campbellA recent opinion piece by Newhall County Water District Director Lynne Plambeck made some serious – but patently untrue – allegations regarding Castaic Lake Water Agency that demand correction and clarification.

The spread of such misinformation is an attempt to block a move toward cooperative water management in the Santa Clarita Valley, on the flawed theory that doing so will undermine city and county land use decisions.

CLWA is a wholesaler of State Water Project and other imported water supplies and owns and operates one retail water supplier, the Santa Clarita Water Division, and recently purchased the stock of another, the Valencia Water Co. In addition, CLWA and Newhall County Water District are discussing a merger of their operations to take advantage of economies of scale, mitigate future rate increases and, most importantly, advance water supply security and reliability in the region.

Plambeck, who is president of SCOPE (Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment), has been a vocal opponent of the merger, which she has falsely labeled a takeover. She should know it isn’t, since her fellow Newhall County Water District Board members all support exploration of the idea. Her June 26 commentary on SCVNews.com is another attempt to discredit CLWA, confuse the public, and lobby for her position.

In fact, Plambeck has an apparent conflict of interest since she sits in on NCWD board’s closed sessions regarding the merger and is actively subverting her board’s desired path in a desperate attempt to backstop SCOPE’s losing lawsuit challenging CLWA’s purchase of Valencia Water Co.

In 2012, CLWA purchased the stock of Valencia Water Co. from The Newhall Land and Farming Co.

Contrary to Plambeck’s rhetoric, Valencia’s quarterly dividend has remained unchanged since the company’s stock was acquired by CLWA. But instead of going to a private company, the money is benefiting the public. The funds are used for CLWA’s wholesale operation, which in turn keeps costs down for customers throughout our service area.

Some of the programs funded in CLWA’s wholesale operating budget include conservation assistance to water ratepayers throughout the area, including those within the Valencia Water Co., Newhall County Water District, L.A. County Waterworks District 36 and Santa Clarita Water Division service areas.

Furthermore, Valencia’s board of directors – not CLWA – makes all decisions regarding rates, which are the lowest in the Santa Clarita Valley.

There is no attempt to hide any of this information. Valencia publishes a notice and materials about proposed rates and CLWA’s board receives the company’s financial reports, which are a public record.

Plambeck has raised some issues regarding our finances. To clarify, interfund transfers are a legitimate way to allocate and track funds so that they are properly accounted for and reimbursed.

And defeasance, to which she refers, means pre-paying debt. One of the benefits of this strategy is that it reduces the need for a significant rate increase to meet revenue-to-debt coverage ratios during a severe sales drop, like we experienced during the drought.

CLWA’s financials are published regularly, audited annually and subject to significant review by the major credit rating agencies. CLWA maintains a AAA/AA-plus credit rating on its debt.

CLWA has issued debt that has financed critical water supply assets, including two major water filtration plants, storage facilities and about 45 miles of large-diameter pipeline.

All of this work helps CLWA fulfill its mission to deliver reliable, quality water at a reasonable cost to the Santa Clarita Valley.

And lastly, no one is talking about taking over anyone else. CLWA and NCWD are mutually exploring the idea of merging into one new entity that would provide more efficient and cheaper water service.

Isn’t that what responsible government officials are supposed to do?

Don’t be fooled by Plambeck’s baseless arguments, which are driven by her self-serving agenda to undermine proper and prudent water management in support of her misguided efforts to dictate land use in the valley.

 

Thomas Campbell is president of the board of the Castaic Lake Water Agency.

 

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11 Comments

  1. Mbb says:

    or is it just fear that Lynne will lose her spot on the board if NCWD and CLWA merge?

  2. Allan Cameron says:

    A note to correct a common misconception regarding “conflict of interest” committed by an elected public official. Appropriately, a “conflict of interest” by an elected or appointed public official is any action that either advances or harms a financial investment or asset held by a public official. All Americans fully retain their rights of free expression, whether or not they hold elective office. Ms. Plambeck has every right to express any opinion she may have. SCOPE is a non profit organization, with no paid staff, or any assets of any kind. (I am its co founder). She may criticize as she wishes. Of course, she may expect criticism in return. However, there is absolutely no conflect of interest in evidence here, despite assertions to the contrary.

    • treehugger says:

      Knowing Ms. Plambeck for over 30+ years I have NEVER know her to say or do anything for personal gains. However that may not be said for CLWA board members and their staff. Ms. Plambeck has been the local voice that has helped shape our community into the oak tree shaded village we all know and love. No Ms. Plambeck can’t be bought out, Mr. Campbell, can you say the same?

  3. waterwatcher says:

    Whew – maybe Campbell should go back and re-read the article that Plambeck wrote. What is he talking about increasing the dividend? The problem is that CLWA is increasing rates on Valencia Water Company customers while those same customers are paying CLWA 199,000 a quarter, totally some 2.4 million to date (2.6 if the July payment has been made), in dividends for stock that CLWA is not allowed to own under state law. Here’s the link to the first article where SCV news posted all the Valencia Water Dividend payments to CLWA. http://scvnews.com/2016/06/26/enron-accounting-at-clwa-commentary-by-lynne-plambeck/

    I guess when the other person is right and has the documents to prove it, Mr. Campbell’s tactic is to call them names and try to impugn their reputation. Sorry, I don’t buy it and neither should anyone else.

  4. waterwatcher says:

    “Furthermore, Valencia’s board of directors – not CLWA – makes all decisions regarding rates, which are the lowest in the Santa Clarita Valley.”

    Oops – one more thing. Oh silly you, Mr. Campbell – Who is Valencia’s Board of Directors? At the last rate hearing, three of the five members were CLWA employees – which means CLWA controls the Board. You know that! Although, it might be hard for the public to know this since CLWA refuses to allow Board meetings to be publicly held, does not publish any agendas or minutes and refuses to release any financial information. You claim Valencia Water is is private except when you want to raise our rates and then suddenly you are a public water company subject to 218. You can’t have it both ways, at least not legally.

  5. Sheryl says:

    I totally agree with Allan. I also believe the CLWA has no business being in the water retail business. They are a wholesaler not a retailer. Being in the retail business is a conflict of interest. The City of Santa Clarita should look into having its own city water company as Burbank and Glendale have. CLWA is out of control and in the pockets of the developers.

  6. scvdontfoolme says:

    Oh I don’t think Lynne Plambeck tries to fool anyone. Lynne is very brave to come forward and I think we ALL know why.

    Since when is a conflicting view, a conflict of interest? What you seem to be saying is that if she doesn’t agree with the rest of the board, then there is some conflict. I guess CLWA doesn’t believe in, or think very much of, democracy?

    When will the merger be agendized on NCWD as well as CLWA? When will the public get to vote on this? Has Pavley agreed to carry any legislation? What does the governance look like? Is this the fox guarding the hen house again, like with the Valencia Water illegal purchase where a sitting board member asked if they could be held “personally liable” for any law breaking?

    We thought you learned your lesson when the courts told you NOT to repeat the same technique you used with the purchase of Santa Clarita Water. Guess Not.

    And this “exploring” was a year in the making without anyone from the public knowing a thing about it, and all BEHIND closed doors in closed meetings. How could Lynne have a conflict of interest by NOT wanting a 60 year old voting district gobbled up by CLWA? I guess you can only “explore” something if you are all for it?

    Doesn’t NCWD have a lawsuit again CLWA for the illegal purchase of Valencia Water, which they have refused to dismiss? And didn’t NCWD just win 2 other lawsuits again CLWA for Brown Act violations, and unfair rates?

    Is it me, or does Lynne make total sense, and YOU are the one with the conflict, but with HER, not the merger. I think I know who to trust on this issue, and it’s not the ones trying to vilify a whistleblower.

  7. Bart Joseph says:

    So we elected a watchdog to a board of trustees abd the other trustees dont want the environmentalist to talk about internal issues..
    What a shock. Schilling is illegal, and now that we know they cant sell retail, when do we get our refund of their profit?

  8. Lee Jenkinson says:

    I am disturbed when the city council apparently sits back and lets all of this happen without any comment. I am also disappointed with the Signal for not making what appears to be a developer end run around the citizens a news story. It all seems so Machiavellian to me, and the Signal should be explaining this to us so that we understand what is going on. Frankly, between the chloride issue and this ongoing CLWA consolidation of Santa Clarita’s water, I am losing faith in the ability of our city council to stay objectively on top of things.

    • SCVNews.com says:

      the city council is no more involved with the water system than, say, the school boards. It’s not within their purview; the council has nothing to say about it. There are probably quite a few people in this town who would object to the idea of expanding the powers of the city council.

  9. scvdontfoolme says:

    I was watching a City Council meeting on TV where Bob Kellar wanted to send a support letter. I nearly fell out of my chair. I will have to review the video clips, but YES HE SUPPORTS IT. Marsha, bless her heart, asked for the council to SLOW DOWN, and to review everything before sending a letter of support. She mentioned that she liked having her water company separate and governed by the board that she and her neighbors voted on. Marsha a a smart lady.

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