A top-secret report for the Moulton Niguel Water District has both good and bad news for the agency that serves 172,000customers.
First the bad news: Misbehavior was rampant among MNWD employees, who took free lunches, fishing trips and golf games financed by district vendors and made what appear to be illegal gun sales on district property.
Now the good news: Most of the bad behavior was more than a decade ago, before the arrival of general manager Robert Gumerman in 2001.
Nevertheless, MNWD officials are sensitive about the investigation completed in March 2011 by private investigator Nick Savala and requested the Watchdog turn over its copy. That won’t happen.
Instead, we’ll share it with you.
The confidential report documents how vendor David Perez, owner of Perez Electric in Chino, bought scores of lunches for district personnel and paid for a golf trip to Pebble Beach Resort in Monterey as well as a fishing trip to Cabo San Lucas.
The golf trip allegedly occurred in the mid-’90s and was attended by two MNWD executives. The fishing trip apparently occurred “five or six years ago” and was attended by one district executive, the report said. One executive reported taking 20 free lunches from Perez.
The report noted that Perez once charged the district $12,000 to rent a portable generator that cost him $9,450 to lease from another company. Perez also charged the district for a month’s rent, although the district barely had the generator fortwo weeks.
“Perez added that he is aware of ‘other contractors that own vacation properties in Cabo San Lucas and he has been told those Moulton Niguel Water District contractors have in the past provided use of those properties to water district employees,” the report said.
A former vendor, Butler Electric, also financed free lunches and fishing trips to San Diego andVentura, the investigation showed.
One former employee said gratuities in the form of fishing trips was an ongoing and accepted practice in the mid-1990s, including trips to Alaska and timeshares in Mexico. The worker added, “We even had beer in the Coke machines.”
The report indicates that employees only occasionally reported the gifts as required by the state Fair PoliticalPractices Commission.
Perez told the investigator that it was better to give gifts than cash.
“The first time I pay a guy cash, then I have to start paying everyone.”
The report doesn’t say what the vendor expected in return.
The investigation also talks about the sale of a shotgun, a 9 mm Beretta handgun and a rifle between twoemployees on district property during the last 18 months. California law requires that private gun sales be made through a licensed dealer. One employee said that he also purchased ammunition through the Internet and had the bullets delivered to the district. Another employee who purchased a handgun at the district was later arrested in Riverside County for illegally possessing a firearm, according to court records.
The firearms transactions prompted a May 24 memo by Gumerman reminding staffers that it is against district policy to bring a pistol or rifle to work.
Reached this week at his office, Gumerman — who is retiring in March — said the district does not encourage getting freebies from contractors.
“That’s not the way we do things under my watch,” Gumerman said.