State Controller Betty Yee reported June 11 that her office’s review of the West Valley Water District in Rialto found “nearly half of internal financial control measures were not present or not functioning, leading to questionable hiring, spending, and contracting practices.”
The water district is an independent special district that serves more than 80,000 residents in a 31-square-mile region of southwest San Bernardino County and northwest Riverside County. It is governed by a five-member elected board.
The controller’s review initially focused on two fiscal years but was expanded to cover fiscal years 2015-16 through 2018-19. Among the key findings:
The district “entered into millions of dollars in financial, legal, and consulting contracts without competitive bidding, and made some large purchases with no written contract at all, failing to exercise due diligence to ensure public resources were spent in a cost-effective manner.”
More than $70,000 was spent on two meetings at a golf resort outside of district boundaries, in violation of state law.
District board members spent far above their operating budgets and reimbursable rates for travel, lodging, and meals.” The controller’s auditors questioned the spending of $1,897 for an election victory party for three members, and travel claims for $4,563 that didn’t have documented approval or were self-approved by the claimant.
The district compensated board members for numerous outside meetings held without prior board approval or documented business purpose, sometimes for more than one meeting a day in violation of state law. These included lunch meetings, teleconferences, and “public meetings” at the farmers market, the controller said.
The district overrode its own hiring policies and could not provide documentation to justify hiring decisions, promotions, or excessive pay increases.