Alleged Death Threats Made Over Allegations of Payoffs at West Valley Water District

Gail Fry

Contributor

  According to documents obtained by San Bernardino American News, on July 29, West Valley Water District Public Affairs Manager Naseem Farooqi issued a press release announcing an upcoming audit by the State Controller’s Office and then went directly to the San Bernardino Superior Court to file a temporary restraining order alleging director Greg Young had threatened to kill him.    

   In the press release issued by West Valley Water District (WVWD) Public Affairs Manager Naseem Farooqi (Farooqi) quoted WVWD President Dr. Michael Taylor (Taylor) welcoming the State Controller’s Office audit while pointing the finger at WVWD Director Dr. Clifford O. Young, Sr. (Young, Sr.) 

   It appears accusations of allegations of misappropriation of funds and unethical hiring practices directed toward Young Sr. have resulted in the State Controller’s Office arriving at WVWD the week of July 29, to conduct an audit of the water district. 

   Those following the unrest occurring at the WVWD as exhibited by over the top turnover of its management personnel over the past five years and a whistleblower lawsuit filed in February 2019 by Plaintiffs WVWD Director Dr. Clifford Young, Chief Financial Officer Naisha Davis and Assistant Board Secretary Patricia Romero against Defendants WVWD General Counsel Robert Tafoya, also city attorney for the City of Baldwin Park, Tafoya’s law firm Tafoya and Garcia, WVWD Special Counsel Clifton Albright and his law firm, Albright Yee and Schmit, WVWD Special Counsel Martin Kaufman and his law firm Kaufman Law Firm and WVWD consultant Robert Katherman.   

   Also named in the whistleblower complaint as co-conspirators are WVWD President Dr. Michael Taylor, former police chief for the City of Baldwin Park, Vice President Kyle Crowther, General Manager Clarence C. Mansell, Jr., former Assistant General Manager Ricardo Pacheco, current Baldwin Park City Councilman, and Human Resources and Risk Manager Deborah Martinez.   

   The whistleblower lawsuit unsealed in June 2019, alleges corruption including illegal hiring practices involving Pacheco and Mansell, violations of the Brown Act, misappropriation of public funds, numerous contracts under $25,000 not approved by the board to favored contractors from Baldwin Park and corrupt practices and payoffs from Tafoya, law firm Tafoya and Garcia, Albright, law firm Albright Yee and Schmit, Kaufman, Kaufman Law Firm and WVWD consultant Robert Katherman. 

   The whistleblower complaint alleges Tafoya, law firm Tafoya and Garcia, Albright, law firm Albright Yee and Schmit, Kaufman, Kaufman Law Firm have been holding fundraisers and directing substantial campaign contributions to Taylor and Crowther while paying for their travel, hotel and meal expenses to such places as Las Vegas, Mexico, Glendale Arizona for an Arizona Cardinal’s NFL game, Miami, Florida twice for Miami Dolphin games, entertainment including numerous golf outings, and Rams football games.

   WVWD consultant Robert Katherman (Katherman) has been accused of invoicing for consulting services without a contract or board approval while having his conferences, meals and travel arrangements paid by the district.  In exchange Katherman paid for entertainment, expensive wines, gifts, meals and made campaign contributions to Taylor. 

   The whistleblower complaint was filed at the Los Angeles Superior Court as case number 19STCV05677 where a hearing has been scheduled for August 13, at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse to hear the Defendants’ special motion to strike the complaint alleging the lawsuit was a strategic lawsuit against public participation commonly known as a SLAPP or in other words a lawsuit brought to silence a whistleblower. 

   In the meantime, Farooqi alleged in court documents that WVWD Director Greg Young threatened to kill him at a July 11, meeting in response to WVWD’s July 29, press release where WVWD President Michael Taylor welcomed the audit by the State Controller’s Office while alleging credible misconduct by WVWD Director Young, Sr. describing Young, Sr’s leadership as a failure of responsibility and ethics and not fiscally prudent while promising to hold Young, Sr. to account. 

   As a result, Farooqi is seeking a restraining order be issued by the San Bernardino Superior Court in case number CIVDS1922450 against Greg Young claiming Greg Young had “read the press release and he was going to kill me.”

   Farooqi declared he was so concerned about the threats that he feared for his life as well as the lives of his family members missing time from work and taking his family out of town followed by filing a complaint with the district on July 16.  Farooqi excused the delay in filing his complaint because he was out of the office. 

   Court records show after hearing testimony from Farooqi at the July 29, hearing, the Court found “no emergency” at this time and continued the hearing until July 31.  After hearing testimony from Greg Young and witness WVWD Public Affairs Specialist Socorro Pantaleon at the July 31, hearing, the court denied Farooqi’s emergency restraining order determining no existing emergency and scheduled a hearing for August 27 at the San Bernardino Court, Civil Division.

   Court records reveal at the July 31, hearing a Farooqi associate, Christopher Dustin Duarte, was excluded from the proceeding after he illegally took a “photograph of counsel table.”

   In an interview with San Bernardino American News, WVWD Director Greg Young explained that he was “overjoyed” that a superior court judge twice “rejected Mr. Farooqi’s restraining order against me.” 

   Greg Young also expressed his pleasure that “the judge forcibly removed Mr. Farooqi’s political associate, Christopher Dustin Duarte” for an improperly attempting to take photographs in the courtroom and “lying to the judge” and that the judge criticized Mr. Farooqi and his associate for “turning the proceedings into a political circus.”    

   The latest dustup between a divided board was the May 16, hiring of Jeremiah Brosowske, a City Councilman for the City of Hesperia, as its assistant general manager, where WVWD President Dr. Michael Taylor motioned to approve Brosowke’s appointment with director Kyle Crowther seconding the motion over director Greg Young’s objections that Brosowske did not meet the district’s qualifications. 

   Brosowske’s contract was approved in a three to two vote with Taylor, Crowther, and director Don Olinger voting yes with Young, Sr. and Greg Young voting no.     

   In an interview with The San Bernardino American News, director Greg Young described its recent vote to appoint Jeremiah Brosowske as its assistant general manager was a “corrupt political deal.”

   WVWD’s job description for general manager describes its minimum qualifications as a combination of education, training and experience that includes “a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in business administration, public administration, civil engineering or a closely related field” and “a minimum of ten (10) years of experience in progressively responsible professional water utility administration at the managerial level” where a candidate can substitute eight (8) years of additional qualifying experience for the required education, on a “two for one” basis.    

   Colleges or universities are accredited by accreditation agencies recognized by the United States Department of Education for postsecondary institutions and programs.  More information can be found at:  https://ope.ed.gov/dapip/#/agency-list

   According to public records obtained by The San Bernardino American News, WVWD provided five resumes submitted by individuals competing to fill the open position of its assistant general manager.

   Three of the applicants had bachelor’s degrees from an accredited college or university in “business administration, public administration, civil engineering or a closely related field,” one applicant had a bachelor’s degree from an unaccredited college, while Brosowske had a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in Science, Policy & Economics, not a qualified major.

   Four applicants had over ten years’ experience at the managerial level at a responsible professional water utility administration as well as state licenses in drinking water or wastewater. 

   Brosowske’s resume indicated no managerial experience at a responsible professional water utility administration, no experience in the water industry, and no state licenses related to water only indicating he had previously worked for San Bernardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman as a policy advisor from December 2014 until February 2018.      

   Yet at its May 16, regular meeting WVWD President Dr. Michael Taylor, Vice President Kyle Crowther, and Director Don Olinger, voted in favor of approving Brosowske’s employment contract to be its assistant general manager at an annual base salary of $189,592 and $62,500 in benefits – totaling more than a quarter million dollars per year.    

   Yet, the appointment of Brosowske has continued to embroil WVWD in a controversy that won’t go away.  After review of the candidate’s resumes, San Bernardino American News requested an explanation from each WVWD director as to their justification for their vote in Brosowske’s appointment as its assistant general manager. 

   WVWD Director Greg Young shared that he voted against Brosowske “because he completely lacked the required experience for the job.”  Greg Young was also skeptical of the process in that only Taylor and Crowther “supposedly” interviewed the candidates and the board only met with Brosowske.   

   Greg Young opined, “Mr. Brosowske’s appointment is the ultimate in political paybacks designed to appease Councilman Jesse Armendarez from Fontana, who is the main financial benefactor of Mr. Crowther and a close personal friend of Mr. Brosowske.”   

   An anonymous source close to WVWD described a similar scenario to The San Bernardino American News that the favorable vote for Brosowske’s employment contract was in exchange for future campaign contributions to Crowther. 

   WVWD Director Don Olinger explained that in retrospect he has more reservations about his vote and that his vote was “based on the positive information presented by the independent consultant and the interview team” and concerns expressed by Greg Young “may have been motivated by a rift between two solid Republicans.”    

   Olinger explained that negative reports about “political cronyism” came to light after the hiring that he is trying to “fact-check that information” and that while Brosowske’s salary package is “excessive for the skill, experience background” it is in line with salaries for other general managers in the water industry.  Olinger said he would continue to closely monitor Brosowske, an at-will employee.     

   Additionally, San Bernardino American News spoke to one of the other candidates who described being recruited by a headhunter, rudely interviewed by WVWD President Dr. Michael Taylor and Director Kyle Crowther, developing a belief that “they knew who they wanted” to hire, and not receiving a courtesy call when not chosen for the position. 

   WVWD President Dr. Michael Taylor, Vice President Kyle Crowther, or Director Dr. Clifford O. Young, Sr. did not respond to San Bernardino American News ’ request for comment.  Additionally, San Bernardino American News requested comment from Fontana City Councilman Jesse Armendarez without response before publication.   

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