Desal Drama Gets Litigious: Collins Files a Claim Against Monterey County
September 20, 2011
Enough of the accusations and reports that point fingers at agencies and officials for the alleged conflict of interest ordeal that imperils the Regional Water Project—on to legal complaints.
Stephen Collins, former Monterey County Water Resources Agency board member who resigned in April amidst revelations that he’d been a paid consultant to an engineering firm later hired to manage the $400 million project—filed a claim Sept. 19 against Monterey County, alleging county officials defamed and humiliated him, and tanked his earning potential.
The complaint details Collins’ version of the events that led to his double dipping, and shows a strained relationship between himself and Curtis Weeks. Weeks, the general manager of the water resources agency, and the County Board of Supervisors agreed on Sept. 20 to amend his contract; his last day will be Oct. 7. Weeks also is Collins’ partner in a private consulting firm CollinsWeeks LLC.
According to the complaint, County Supervisor Lou Calcagno urged Collins to lead the way: “[Calcagno] expressed his opinion that General Manager Weeks was incapable of guiding the Regional Project...Supervisor Calcagno told me I would have to assume responsibility for ‘closing the deal’ on the Regional Project.
“The idea of hiring me as a paid consultant did not originate with General Manager Weeks. It originated with Supervisor Calcagno...Calcagno said he realized that I didn’t ‘work for free.’”
Collins also names Supervisor Dave Potter, along with County Counsel Charles McKee and Deputy Counsel Irv Grant for being in on the RMC deal all along, a claim they have publicly denied. Collins says he offered to resign from the board before he became a consultant, and that the results of a two-day polygraph test back his claims.
Collins also details media coverage, quoting from this newspaper, among others, as evidence that Potter’s comments “would expose me to further hatred, contempt, ridicule...and loss of earning ability.”
He’s calculated lost earnings to date at more than $86,000, plus legal fees for his attorney, Juliet Peck and Michael Lawrence of the Salinas firm Lawrence & Peck, at $50,000 and counting. Collins says he used to earn $285,000 a year, and since his resignation, has had no income.
Collins is also the subject of ongoing investigations by the county District Attorney and the California Fair Political Practices Commission regarding the alleged conflict of interest.
Collins, his attorneys, McKee, and supervisors Potter and Calcagno could not be immediately reached for comment.
Meanwhile, the contracts between desal partners Marina Coast Water District, California American Water and the Monterey County Water Resources Agency are in question and facing a looming legal threat from Cal Am for breach of contract and a failure to proceed on the project.