• February 17, 2018

San Lorenzo Valley Water District considers lawsuit against director - Golden State Newspapers: Press Banner

San Lorenzo Valley Water District considers lawsuit against director

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Posted: Wednesday, January 31, 2018 7:14 pm

 In an effort to appear transparent, the San Lorenzo Water District Board of Directors invited the public to make statements and ask questions on Tuesday evening, regarding a potential lawsuit against board director Bill Smallman.

“I am here to say I did nothing wrong,” Smallman said to a packed room of over 30 people. “This is dividing the community and it is a complete waste of money.”

The special district meeting was held in relation to Smallman’s alleged violation of the Brown Act. This comes from disclosures Smallman made to the Press Banner about legal discussions made during closed session board meetings. The disclosures were primarly related to a lawsuit against former board member Terry Vierra, whose legal bills were paid for by the district for a time.    

After two rounds of public comments on whether or not an injunction or other court order against Smallman is necessary, the San Lorenzo Water District Board of Directors decided it would reevaluate the decision in a future closed session.

“The difficulty of tonight is because the majority of it happened behind closed sessions, so it makes it hard to explain to the public why we are here today,” said board director, Eric Hammer.

Several community members spoke in defense of Smallman. Others expressed frustrations on why the board was seeking legal action.

John Schneider, of Lompico, stated he believed this was a “smear job against Smallman” and the board “has been attacking Smallman from the beginning.” Schneider inquired to the board of director’s general counsel on the legality of the potential lawsuit and also whether or not a letter from the attorney for Vierra is available for public record.

The board’s general legal counsel, Gina Nicholls stated the letter from the attorney is available, however she did not state where to locate the letter, other than file a public information request.

Nicholls also cautioned several board members to not disclose any information on the specifics of the potential lawsuit during the meeting.

Mark Lee, of Ben Lomond, stated this was an unnecessary course of action against Smallman.

“To drag him through court is a waste of taxpayers’ money,” Lee said. “Do not punish a hard working director.”

Board members Margaret Bruce, Gene Ratcliffe and Hammer stated the importance of the Brown Act, which states information from closed meetings cannot be shared publicly, minus a few narrow exceptions.

“There is no question in my mind what should have stayed private,” said board member Margaret Bruce. “I believe it was done in intent and not without error and I felt concern that this behavior has cast a shadow of doubt.”

After almost two hours of discussion, Smallman concluded by making a joke, he pulled out his wallet pretending it was a phone and said, “Scotty, please beam me up immediately. I am in trouble.”

Just before the meeting adjourned, Smallman added one final thought.

“I do take this seriously. I hope you understand why I did this,” Smallman said.

To find a copy of the board of director’s special agenda from Tuesday’s meeting visit their website: http://www.slvwd.com/

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