Murky Waters…Squid has always had a fondness for unwieldy books like dictionaries and encyclopedias, dating back to Squid’s pre-internet years as a Squidlet. For nostalgic purposes, Squid sometimes returns to the paper dictionary to verify spellings and definitions and, for obvious reasons, Squid recently decided to look up the definition of the verb “impeach.” It means to charge the holder of a public office with misconduct: for example, when the evidence shows that the president has made a major foreign policy decisions in order to further his own personal interests.
More generally, to impeach means to call into question the integrity or validity of something or someone. And in that sense, President Donald Trump is in the same boat as a certain local Monterey County public official. The official is Dave Stoldt and he is the general manager of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District.
Stoldt reports to an elected and appointed board of directors, and recently, a member of that board, Gary Hoffmann, has called for an investigation into Stoldt’s conduct in office. The allegations against him stem from California American Water as detailed in a 27-page letter the company’s lawyers sent to the boards of MPWMD and Monterey One Water on Nov. 11.
Stoldt is biased, the letter alleges, against a plan by Cal Am to build a desalination plant near Marina, and he is allegedly working to promote an alternative water supply that would use treated sewage. This is essentially an accusation of political subversion and sabotage: The official position adopted by Stoldt’s board is in support of the planned desal project.
The evidence? Cal Am lawyers say Stoldt “manipulated” a technical document and sent it to the staff of the California Coastal Commission in hopes it would block the desal plant.
About two weeks later, the chair of water district, Molly Evans, responded to the Cal Am lawyers, saying she “takes very seriously allegations you made.” In single page of legalese, Evans cleared Stoldt of wrongdoing while noting he could have been neater in attributing information and clearer in distinguishing his own conclusions from those made in a technical report. “The District has thus fully responded to your concerns,” Evans wrote.
That response wasn’t complete enough for Hoffmann. He wants the board to consider hiring an independent investigator (Squid hears Robert Mueller is available) when they next meet on Dec. 16. Getting an item like that on the agenda at all is unlikely because it would require action by either Evans or her vice-chair, Alvin Edwards.
“I am not really sure where [Hoffmann] is coming from to be honest,” Stoldt says. But if there’s a board discussion on hiring an investigator he says he’d welcome it: “I haven’t broken any policies.”
In Stoldt’s defense, it’s unlikely that a single line in an excerpt from a draft technical memorandum would make much of a difference to the Coastal Commission staff anyway; in a recommendation against desal, they cited dozens of reasons to support recycled water over desalination in its recommendation.
But the fight over the future of water the Monterey Peninsula isn’t just about facts. It’s about politics—and the folks in Washington aren’t setting a good example.
“Look at the political environment,” Stoldt says. “When you continue to spread mistruths they can seem to become truths.”