Party on the Desal Gravy Train
Regional Project leaders dined out, visited SF on the county’s dime.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
This much can be said about Monterey County Water Resources Agency General Manager Curtis Weeks: He likes to eat out, especially when the county picks up the tab.
A September 2010 report from Monterey County Auditor-Controller Michael Miller finds Weeks violated the county’s policies by using the county procurement card for meals and hotel stays in excess of the allowed per-diem, and unapproved entertainment charges.
A review of Weeks’ card statement date ending June 22, 2010 found $667 in dining charges for San Francisco and Monterey-area restaurants. His guests on multiple occasions included former MCWRA board member Steve Collins, Marina Coast Water District General Manager Jim Heitzman and County Supervisor Dave Potter.
Joining him at least once were county attorney Dan Carroll, Monterey Mayor Chuck Della Sala, Monterey City Manager Fred Meurer and Collins’ wife, Penny.
The auditors’ review also found $8,293 in charges for stays at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco by Weeks, Collins, attorney Kevin O’Brien of the Sacramento-based firm Downey Brand, and county attorneys Carroll and Irv Grant.
“The test period findings indicate a pattern that may be found in other periods as well,” the report states.
The documents were provided in response to a Public Records Act request.
Potter says he remembers meeting with Weeks, Collins, Heitzman and others regarding the Regional Project “a bunch of times” last year, but always assumed Collins was there in his capacity as an MCWRA board member.
Weeks and Heitzman did not return the Weekly’s calls.
Collins resigned from the MCWRA board in April, when facts emerged about his side contract with RMC Engineering, the firm that won the $28 million Regional Project management contract.
Collins’ lawyer, Salinas criminal defense attorney Juliet Peck, maintains that all of Collins’ actions while working for RMC were consistent with the interests of MCWRA.
“The multiple dinners, the lodging in San Francisco and elsewhere, and the discussions were directed to one objective: To move the Desalination Project forward, which was the direction that had been given MCWRA and its staff by the Board of Supervisors,” she writes by email.
A third-party report released by the county June 21 concluded Heitzman not only knew about Collins’ double-dipping, but in January 2010 asked RMC to hire Collins.
His conduct “raises concerns about the validity” of the three CPUC-approved agreements underpinning the Regional Project, the report states.
Supervisor Potter echoes those concerns. “Not only what kind of damages has Steve done to himself, but what damage has he done to the project?” he asks. “That’s what we’re worried about.”