The Fallbrook Public Utility District, which previously placed sanctions on FPUD board member Archie McPhee for violations of FPUD’s ethics policy and the district’s code of conduct, opted not to take action on any additional potential violations during the Sept. 23 board meeting, but instead will wait until after a hearing by U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel regarding McPhee’s allegations.
McPhee, who was previously sanctioned for revealing closed session information involving the Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Project, sent three additional letters to Curiel and Jjudge Larry Burns, who have been assigned to the case regarding the litigation related to the Conjunctive Use Project.
Curiel has asked for additional information regarding McPhee’s letters. “He may require the parties to come into court and explain themselves, including Archie,” said FPUD general manager Brian Brady.
A Sept. 9 special meeting of the FPUD board prohibited McPhee from participating in closed session matters and from closed sessions involving personnel matters while denying McPhee per diem meeting fees until he has complied with the district’s Administrative Code requirement that he attend a training session on FPUD director duties and responsibilities.
The FPUD board also declared McPhee’s action with regard to the Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Project to be outside the scope of McPhee’s duties as a director, which means that FPUD will not provide legal defense or indemnification if a civil suit is filed against McPhee. McPhee was also instructed to cease and desist from any additional communication with Camp Pendleton.
FPUD and Camp Pendleton have been working towards finalizing the Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Project which would use natural and enhanced flows in the Santa Margarita River to enhance the recharge of groundwater basins and would provide up to 18,000 acre-feet per year for Camp Pendleton and FPUD. The project, which has a total estimated cost of $140 million, would also include a seawater intrusion barrier which would use recycled water and a distribution system to deliver water both to FPUD and to the San Diego County Water Authority.
The management of the groundwater basins would provide FPUD with 4,000 to 6,500 acre-feet of new supply each year from the Santa Margarita River, which equates to approximately 25 to 30 percent of FPUD’s annual need of 16,000 acre-feet. The local supply would protect against cutbacks from the County Water Authority if the CWA’s State Water Project or Colorado River allocation is reduced. An agreement between the United States Marine Corps and FPUD is undergoing federal legal review and is expected to be finalized soon.
The initial three letters for which McPhee was sanctioned were to Camp Pendleton commanding General Vincent Conglianese. McPhee opposed FPUD’s plans for the Conjunctive Use Project while identifying himself as an FPUD board member, thus violating not only closed session confidentiality but also FPUD policy prohibiting individual board members from making contact and contradicting the decision of the full board.
John Simpson, who is Camp Pendleton’s representative for water issues, attended the May 29 FPUD board meeting and told the FPUD board that McPhee’s first two letters were undermining the ongoing settlement discussions.
McPhee’s first two letters to Curiel and Burns were dated June 8 and June 28 and were rejected by the court on the grounds that the documents were not timely. McPhee’s third letter, dated Aug. 5, was filed with the court. After that filing, Simpson notified FPUD that the Navy Inspector General had been assigned to investigate allegations and insinuations of criminal-level acts, negligence, and liability against both FPUD and Camp Pendleton.
FPUD’s Personnel Committee met Sept. 16 and recommended that the full board take no action until Curiel acts on the issue.