Everyone Under the Bus
Dueling reports point fingers in many directions on Regional Water Project conflicts.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
TomKat and Brangelina may be international sensations, but a new supercouple is stealing even more media attention in Monterey County: Collinsweeks.
That’s Steve Collins, former Monterey County Water Resources Agency board member under investigation for alleged conflict of interest in the Regional Desalination Project, and MCWRA General Manager Curtis Weeks.
California Secretary of State records show the pair formed Collinsweeks LLC, a private engineering and financial consulting company, in January 2010 – just as Collins began consulting for RMC Engineering, the firm that ultimately won the $28 million contract to manage the Regional Project. Collins was simultaneously advocating for the project in his public position as MCWRA board member, in alleged violation of state conflict-of-interest laws. Collinsweeks is still active, according to SOS records.
The juicy Collins issue has sparked a competition among investigators. While the Monterey County District Attorney works with the state Fair Political Practices Commission, private law firms hired by the county Board of Supervisors and Marina Coast Water District (not to mention local media) are working to make sense of a scandal that threatens to invalidate the project’s legal foundation.
The preliminary county investigation, known as the Remcho report, names Marina Coast General Manager Jim Heitzman as the orchestrator of Collins’ ill-fated contract. But the preliminary investigation released by Marina Coast last week, prepared by James Markman of the Los Angeles firm Richards, Watson & Gershon (as reported July 1 at www.mcweekly.com), pins the blame primarily on Weeks, Supervisor Dave Potter and Supervisor Lou Calcagno, with a legal assist from county counsel.
In the Markman narrative, Collins repeatedly offered to resign from the MCWRA board once he started working for RMC, but Supervisors Potter, Calcagno and Simon Salinas told him not to. Heitzman cut off MCWD’s reimbursements to RMC for Collins’ work because county counsel would not provide a written opinion green-lighting Collins’ dual role, Markman states.
Calcagno denies he helped arrange the RMC consulting deal for Collins. “I never did such a thing. Why would I do something like that?” he asks. “All I did was ask Steve Collins to take a leadership role as a Water Resources Agency board member on this project.”
Potter has denied knowing of Collins’ dual role before it became public. Weeks and Heitzman could not be reached by deadline.