Changing of the Guard at Monterey County Water Resources Agency: Deputy GM Bill Phillips Resigns
January 3, 2012
After more than eight years at the Monterey County Water Resources Agency, former deputy general manager Bill Phillips has resigned at 72.
Reflecting on his career at the agency, Phillips says he has a lot to be proud of. "I am pleased that we entered the fray with respect to providing water to the Peninsula, which others had been unsuccessful for many years at," he says.
"And in making the agency a stronger and a louder voice on the Central Coast, we had some success. I've got to give the board of directors some credit for that as well. That was a part of their strategy when I first joined 2003."
Phillips says it's a decision he made early in 2011, before conflict-of-interest allegations started flying, and it's a move unrelated to former board member Steve Collins's April 2011 resignation or former GM Curtis Weeks' resignation in Sept. 2011.
Collins was subsequently charged with 42 felonies, two of which are related to the regional water project. After Collins departed, Phillips took over as interim GM for about two months until the county Board of Supervisors selected David Cardovoyne as interim boss in November.
Phillips says he was never interviewed by California Fair Political Practices Commission investigators who are looking into the conflict of interest allegations, and he cautions against drawing conclusions before the investigation is closed. "As an institution, [MCWRA] has got good people working hard with real strong ethics. It's a shame that what happened happened," Phillips says.
There's no public plan in place yet for a search to replace Phillips, whose last day on the job was Nov. 21. His retirement was dated Dec. 30 in an e-mail away message that reads, "I am out of the office and will not return, having decided to end my employment with Monterey County."
Phillips has a positive outlook when it comes to the recently embattled agency's future. "I think it's in good hands," he says. "I'm real pleased with the board of directors that we have, so I'm optimistic."
"Every time someone files a lawsuit or there's a new regulation, or there's a legal decision or there's a change in state or federal budgets," Phillips adds, "all of those things can change the direction of a very complicated project that takes a long time to put together."
He views the Nacimiento and San Antonio dams as an exemplary water project worth emulating. "Unfortunately for Monterey County, not everybody had the foresight that the farmers had in the Salinas Vally when they built the dams," Phillips says. "We've essentially got a balanced groundwater basin in the Salinas Valley, and there aren't a whole lot of those in the state.
"We'll see whether enough leaders can step up long enough to develop a project to help the folks on the Peninsula. Frankly, it'll take the press and the public and the bureacrats and the business community and the environmental community all pulling in the same direction."