To the Editor: All time low, open mic night at City Council

The Groundwater Authority (GA) has reached a new all-time low in civility and decorum. I have attended GA meetings for years, and for years the GA has shown a disdain for the Indian Wells Valley Water District (WD) and it’s representative. Anyone who demonstrates a desire for fiscal responsibility or transparency, especially the WD, is immediately held in contempt by the City of Ridgecrest and Kern County. This hostility toward the WD continues in spite of the fact that the City and the County provide almost zero funding to the GA, and the WD provides almost all of the GA funding. The WD opinions are almost universally ignored.

I was appalled to hear the shouted outburst, “Oh F__K you”, directed at WD Director Stan Rajtora over an open mic during the GA meeting on December 8. This rude and uncalled for outburst reflects the general attitude of the City and the County toward the WD. I was also appalled that Scott Hayman, the Chairman of the GA who is the City representative, did not react to the egregious outburst. The open mics in the GA meeting are ONLY available to the member agencies’ staff and contractors. This childish and immature attitude is unfortunately pervasive in the GA, and no action was taken to even acknowledge this unscrupulous behavior, much less rebuke it. Our citizens demand people of integrity, decency, transparency and honesty.

At the same GA meeting, the GA voted to withhold the chairman role from the WD next year and to pass the lead role to Kern County. Their action ensures that transparency and respect for public input will NOT be part of the GA culture for two more full years. After the County’s year, the chair will again pass to the City, bypassing the WD for a second time.

There is little doubt that the current GA organization will ever regain the respect of or listen to the public or the major pumpers in this valley. Confidence, credibility and accountability in elected officials are precious resources to waste. Is it time to engage a neutral third party such as the Department of Water Resources to intervene? They could hardly do worse and would likely improve transparency and help protect the public interest.

It’s time for the public to wake up.

Proper oversight is needed for better transparency and ethical leadership from the GA.

Raymond Kelso

Story First Published: 2021-12-17