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December 19, 2018

MSWD Board Meetings, December 13 & 17, 2018

This is a report on the Mission Springs Water District Board of Director meeting that took place on December 13 and 17, 2018. Same agenda both meetings.


Swearing In Of Steve Grasha

General Director Arden Wallum swore in Steve Grasha as the new director. I couldn't help but notice, since I had seen three swearings-in at the city council meeting the night before, that while City Clerk Soriano only requires the new official to say "I will" or "I do" whenever he pauses, Mr. Wallum wants a complete repetition when he does the swearing in.

Then after the swearing in was complete—crickets. Well, one staffer made a little bit of applause, but the rest of public (a pretty good number for a water district meeting) and the board remained silent. The usual round of congratulatory handshakes was dispensed with.


Public Comments

Judy Bowman came to the podium and said...

My name is Judy Bowman. For the past nine years it has been my privilege to get to know you Directors, to know the staff, pleased to know people here at Mission Springs Water District. It's also been my privilege to have a front seat watching my husband demonstrate his dedication to the community and to service. You guys have been a team that works together. You don't always agree, but you know how to work out your disagreements civilly and respect each other.

Steve Grasha, I am grateful for this opportunity to actually see you face to face, but I simply cannot stay silent. I've never seen you before. This is really rare in a political campaign. You've never been out in public. So I wanted to tell you face to face, Steve, if you would look at me, 'Shame on you.' Throughout the campaign you hid behind your keyboard, blasting out false accusations on an almost daily basis. You never came out in public. After years of running for many offices - any office - you finally came up with a political strategy to fool the electorate and to get votes. you have not demonstrated any care of what the office is. You've never demonstrated any care about Mission Springs Water District. It doesn't seem to matter to you that your campaign was full of false credentials, false accusations, fear-mongering over nonexistent issues and outright lies and slander. You do not deserve a seat on this board. It's one thing to exaggerate and outright lie about your own qualifications, but quite another to make up stories. You personally slandered me. You personally slandered my husband. You publicly accused him of felony crimes of the most heinous nature. You've never offered any proof, but somehow you managed to fool the electorate with keyboard courage. Shame on you. You are not an honorable man. And this community will not forget your lies and your [unintelligible]. Thank you.

Jeff Bowman spoke next. He has posted the video of his comment on YouTube.

I will apologize right up front, I've had several of our public yield their time to me, so I can get my full statement out, Mr. President.

The office of Director of Mission Springs Water District is critical to the people of the district. They depend on directors to represent them as you provide, protect and preserve their most valuable resource - water. My comments today are not those of a sore loser, but rather from a concerned and committed citizen to this city and district.

Steve Grasha, my first contact with you was when you were seeking to fill the vacancy left by the late John Furbee. When you came to this podium you sort of slaundered up, leaned on the podium and said 'I haven't had time to prepare for this position.' And I thought to myself, good lord, you're running for a significant place in this community in leadership and you haven't had the chance to prepare. You were not chosen that day because the public deserved better. When you supplied the information to the board for that particular office you listed an RV park as your residence. It is technically in the district boundaries, but on a master meter [one meter for the entire RV park], thus I concluded at that time that you have never paid a bill to MSWD. And I believe you still haven't to this very day. The public deserves somebody that actually pays a water bill like they do.

When you started your campaign you said typical political exaggerations, like 'we are poisoning our children because of chrome-6.' These things, as stupid as they were, are par for often campaigns. But then you went further. I've been in this community for fifteen years running my award-winning spa. I love the town and the district, having served thousands of hours in community service. Because I love my community, I have assisted many folks. One such woman was Donna Poyuzina. Donna found herself in a homeless situation and I reached out to her, offering her a place in one of my condos for rent. You took that information and you spun it 180°. You said, and I quote, 'The poorest people of Desert Hot Springs have been used and manipulated for too long with the likes of the current MSWD board that takes so many millions from us, only to redistribute that power and money back to their favorite friends and supporters and special interest golddiggers by giving them free houses at our expense.'

Shame on you, Steve, for taking my love and kindness and equating it with greed and power. Yes, I helped a friend who was in need and needed a place to stay. That's how love works. And, you know what? It also shows how a director should act with love and compassion to the community in which they live and serve.

But you didn't stop there. You not only picked on me, but also my award-winning business, Living Waters Spa. You wrote, 'Whenever he talks he creepily mentions the old widow ladies what a great masseuse he is and he invited the lonely widows to his nudist colony. He's a sick creeper that should not be allowed near children or by lonely old women.' Shame on you, Steve.

Then you pick on my wife. You said, 'He'll be asking you if you can bring a friend for his wife to share the experience with. He will film it and sell it to Chinese porn sites. He's a disgusting pervert.' And, you know what, Steve? That wasn't enough. You stepped over the line even further. You sent an email to the entire database of registered voters with the headline 'Child Porn Photo of MSWD Director Jeff Bowman Appears Online Followed by Massive Sex Offender Raid on Desert Hot Springs by Riverside County District Attorney and Multiple State and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies.' You wrote that. You took a picture of a wedding that was held at my spa, a very sacred event, I may say. A picture I used years ago to promote nudist weddings. You took and spun it 180° from the purity it was. You portrayed it as child porn. Everybody was appalled at this outrageous lie. Even the chief of police with whom you then chose to debate on Facebook, was blown away by your libelous statements and wrote an email - he did - wrote an email defending my integrity.

One week after the election, November 13, our local newspaper and NBC station finally documented your frequent racist, violent and angry posts that you have made on Twitter and Facebook. These were not political things. These come from a heart that's bad. They documented your involvement with the court system, how you were charged with two counts of felony stalking and one felony count of making death threats in 2013. They document some, but not all the numerous lawsuits that had been leveled against you during your adult life because of your poor character. Had the Desert Sun or NBC Palm Springs done this reporting the month you filed your paperwork, the public would have known the real Steve Grasha and you would have not fooled them into voting for you.

Steve, I'm not going anywhere. I'll continue to run my award-winning mineral spa. I'll continue to pay MSWD bills. I'll continue to volunteer in my community to make it better. And I will retire here. The character you exhibited during the campaign does not befit the office to which you were elected. Your MO has been to take innocent actions and turn them 180°, distorting the truth just like you distorted the truth of your own qualifications and experience. For a fact, the voters did not know these things or they would have not voted for you.

My comments today come from a heart of a concerned and committed citizen to the city and district. Steve, the people you have fooled are going to be the ones who will judge you in your actions. They are holding you to a standard that you've never demonstrated in your entire life.

You, Steve Grasha, are not fit for public office.

Thank you, Mr. President, for allowing me to have that extra time.

Chelsea Vivian spoke next:

I am new to this community, however, I have been coming here for five years as a client of Jeff and Judy Bowman and their Living Waters Spa. I'm not a nudist, actually. I am a woman who suffers from something called psoriatic arthritis. This causes huge sores all over my body. Sometimes covered up to 30 to 40 percent of my skin's surface when stressors trigger this. There's very expensive medications that can help remedy this. But there is one medicine given to me by God that cures my skin and that is sunlight. The transition from the sun hitting my skin to the production of vitamin D heals psoriasis. And unfortunately, the psoriasis likes to go into places where bathing suits cover. So I chronically sought places in my life where I can safely and comfortably lay out in the sun in the nude where nobody will bother me. Knowing the waters of Desert Hot Springs, knowing the mineral waters, that is another healing aspect to arthritis. As you all probably know this is a mecca for [unintelligible]. So I hit the internet and I looked for places that were clothing optional and there were a few options. A couple that I clearly wouldn't be comfortable with given my personal choices. But there was one that rose to the surface. There was one that kind of said this is a very comfortable environment. So I called up one day and I ended up speaking to Jeff and he quizzed me and I quizzed him back and I felt okay, this is a place that I can be comfortable at. So I came and we all got to know each other. They learned that I had lost about my entire family and that the stressors that were engaged in my life at that time. Since then I have not only been a client, I have become a very close friend of Jeff and Judy Bowman's. I know dozens upon dozens of their clients that come there, many of them for the same reasons. I have come to know their family. I have come to know their friends here in Desert Hot Springs and I am astounded at what upstanding and amazing human beings they are. And what they have provided, the Living Waters Spa is not a place for nudists to go hang out - I mean, yeah, it is - for me, it's a safe harbor. It was a place where I was given the opportunity to lay out, get my medicine, and not be ridiculed. Even at other gyms and other places when I go in a bathing suit I get stares when I have to show that part of my body. I've had people get uncomfortable about me going into a pool with them because they think I'm contagious because they are not educated about my condition. I experienced none of that with Jeff and Judy.

So, Steve Grasha, I am deeply offended at the smear that you put upon them. And I would like to say that you should feel ashamed of yourself, but I would like [unintelligible] on this planet to feel shame because that is only a curse that you would have to suffer that would continue and perpetuate these force of actions. But I can say in looking at you is that you already have shame if you have to take this course of action to get elected to a seat on a water board. So, congratulations, you have really shown us all how dirty and ugly people can be.

Margaret Web spoke next:

I've been a resident of California since 2007. I've been part of the political life, you may say, for thirty years with the Kennedys, with my mom growing up with [unintelligible], I got a chance to know a lot of politicians in my life. It's a dirty game. People slandering people. People making up lies, all the way up to the presidency. It's not about slander or smut, because I've had my smut in my life. I've had to deal with people looking at me not because of sores, but because of the color of my skin, thinking that my black skin's going to wipe off on them if they get in the pool after me. So I can feel you on that.

[The board President reminded her to address her remarks to the board.]

Yes, I will. I'll do that. Okay thank you, Mr. President, thank you for telling me that, Randy. This is my first time speaking here. I love Mission Springs Water District. Every time I have an event I can come here and I can get water for my babies. I feed the homeless.

You guys here, you make a part of what I do happen. So I didn't come here to talk about anybody. I came here to thank you guys for being here for our community. Because for me, that's what it's about. As long as you guys can sit there and you do your job, when I get ready to come in here and I need you or you know I'm there, if you need me, then that's what makes a beautiful community. It's not about the past. It's about us living in the future. We've got to push forward. We've got to do more. And I'm not going to take any more of your time because I've got to go run to the hospital. I've got a sick baby I've got to go visit. Y'all be blessed.

Donna Wardine spoke next:

I've lived in Desert Hot Springs for nineteen years Christmas Day. I love my city. I moved here for the water. When I came here I went to water college which MSWD used to make available to citizens. I just want to say that, understanding that one of the members of your board, Steve Grasha, has run and been elected under false pretenses, I would just like to say that I am 100% behind the Bowmans, and I did not appreciate your inattention to the speakers. I thought that was exceedingly rude. Very unbusinesslike, as well. The smirk on your face is insulting to all of us. All of us. And you, sir, are a piece of work. I don't appreciate your lies, either.

Pastor Kephyan Sheppard spoke next:

I'm a local resident here. I wasn't going to say anything. I kind of like to stay quiet in the back. I just wanted, first of all, Mr. Bowman is extremely integral in all his dealings with me, with our church community. Anytime we've had an issue, I've been able to call him, pull on his coattail and get resolution quick. To see that he lost the election was one thing, but to see the way the election was lost was another. I have no personal problems with Mr. Grasha, however the way that campaign was run with a clear lack of integrity, slander, false accusations, I just don't think that that's the type of individual that we should have representing our water board. I don't know what all the procedures are. I'm not really involved with it. But what I can say is that anyone in leadership in this capacity should show a clear pathway of integrity. And what I saw during the election just was not fair. And, for me, I think it would go a long way if you were even able to apologize to Mr. Bowman publicly, because you disrespected him publicly. I think that's the way a public official should carry themselves. Now the election was done. I don't know if anything can be done about that. But as someone who's going to represent this city going forward, it would go a long way to show just an ounce of character to say, you know what, things that I said were not true, I apologize or anything. But I think that's the way to move forward. Because right now, it's real bad. Thank you.


Annual Report From The District's Washington Lobbyist

Our Washington lobbyist used to be Thane Young who was with the firm of Van Scoyoc. From the conversation between the Directors and Laura Morgan-Kessler, I pieced together that she had worked with Mr. Young at Van Scoyoc and sometime a year or more ago Mr. Young retired. Ms. Morgan-Kessler left Van Scoyoc and MSWD followed her to her new firm, Carpi and Clay Government Relations. You can see on their website that they represent many California-based agencies, including Indio Water Authority, San Diego County Water Authority, Santa Clara Valley Water District and Long Beach Water Department.

Since 1995 MSWD has received grants from Riverside County totalling $823,000, the federal government for $11 million and the State of California for $23 million. The district's population currently is about 37,600. These grants amount to more than $926 per capita. That's $926 each district resident did NOT have to pay to MSWD.

Ms. Morgan-Kessler said that over the years MSWD has built up a very strong positive reputation on Capitol Hill and with the Army Corps of Engineers. She said there is a lot of discussion in Congress about removing the ban on earmarks in appropriations bills. For this to happen, both the House and Senate would have to agree to do so.

Director Grasha asked when and what was the last example of funding we got via earmarks. Ms. Morgan-Kessler said that would have been in 2009 when we got a grant for the septic to sewer conversion program. Mr. Grasha pointed out that Jerry Lewis was our Congressional Representative then and he was chair of the House Appropriations Committee.


Anual Report of Capacity Fees and Related Capital Expenditures

This is an annual report required by law which, I suppose, is intended to ferret out agencies who collect high fees and then do little to nothing with them. In FY 2018 the district collected $176,240 in connection fees and spent $477,932.10 in capital expenditures. From the beginning of the report (1989) the district has collected $19,255,258.11 in connection fees and spent $33,121,659.63 in capital expenditures. To summarize, you're getting more than you pay for.


Award of Contract for Horton Wastewater Treatment Plant Infiltration Pond Expansion

With fewer septic tanks and more sewer connections, sewage flow at Horton has increased sufficiently to justify construction of three new infiltration ponds there. Effluent is allowed to rest in the infiltration ponds to gradually seep into the ground, eventually making its way back to the aquifer after being cleaned the natural way.

There were three bids Tryco General Engineering for $170,669, Tri-Star Contracting for $180,775, and Jones Bros. Construction for $199,354. Staff recommended awarding the contract to Tryco. Approved 5-0.


Acceptance of Willow Hole Groundwater Monitoring Wells Project

When MSWD joined the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan the district agreed to install two monitoring wells near the mesquite hummocks that run along the Banning branch of the San Andreas fault. One of the wells is along Palm Drive, just south of 20th. The other is on Mountain View 4,100 feet south of 20th. The wells extend to a depth of about 80 feet and cost $60,699.75, total. Funding came from a grant from the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy. Today's vote was to release the final payment of $3,034.99. Approved 5-0.


West Garnet Avenue Water Line Reimbursement Agreement

When KW Palm Springs built the new FedEx facility on Garnet Avenue west of Indian, along I-10, they had to put in a larger water main 2,235 feet long from Indian. They paid $858,861.82 for it, and it passes in front of undeveloped lots. When those lots are developed and connect to the water main, MSWD will collect a fee that includes $192.14 per foot of pipe in front of that development. MSWD will then turn around reimburse KW Palm Springs 80% of that. This item on the agenda is authorize a 10-year agreement between MSWD and KW Palm Springs for this. After the agreement expires, MSWD will no longer reimburse KW Palm Springs. Approved 5-0.


Solar Plant

It's still not online. It's all in the hands of Edison now. In the coming week Edison is supposed to perform a "witness test," which should be last step before final authorization.


I-10/Indian Sewer Collection System Financing District

There are 140 parcels totaling 695.5 acres. 51 parcel owners have returned surveys. Five owners representing about $670,000 in total assessed value) are opposed. One of those five owners represents over $500,000 in assessed value. 46 owners representing about $1,200,000 are in support. But 89 property owners (almost $8 million) still have not responded to the survey. So it's 13% yes, 7% no and 80% we don't know yet.

The financing of the construction of the sewer collection system is entirely the responsibility of the property owners in that area. If they never approve it, development of their properties will be far more difficult and expensive, if they can develop at all.


Election of Officers

Director Wright nominated Director Duncan to serve another year as President. Approved 5-0. Then Director Wright nominated Director Martin to serve another year as Vice President. Approved 5-0.


General Manager's Report

A car hit a fire hydrant in Mission Lakes. Rumors abounded that it took MSWD hours to shut off the water, but this is not correct. MSWD responded and had the hydrant shut off in less than half an hour. However, in the same accident, the car also took out a Mission Lakes backflow prevention device, and it was Mission Lakes' responsibility to shut off the water flow that resulted from that. It took a lot longer.


Director Comments

Steve Grasha said, "Well, I guess I could thank the voters for their confidence. Pretty big turnout, I guess. The largest percent of votes ever received by a Director, 35%. First person to ever defeat a certain incumbent who called me 'creepy' on a Friday after, so I thought I'd react to that and let people know what creepy actually was. Just so you have that out of the way, that's what happened there. So I'm looking forward to spreading my wings a little bit on this board and doing the job people elected me to do. And I want them to know that their vote was not misplaced, regardless of what they might hear from those who weren't as successful as they would have liked to have been. Thank you."

At the Monday meeting, Mr. Grasha said, "Well, I have a whole list of things I could talk about, but in the interest of decorum and good citizenship I think I will pass until maybe a future date."

Nancy Wright said the election turnout was the biggest ever for MSWD because this is the first time the district elections have coincided with the general election.


Epilogue

Immediately after the Thursday study session adjourned on Thursday, a man from the audience went up to Mr. Grasha at the dais, handed him some paper and said "You've been served." I suppose people who have been waiting to serve Mr. Grasha with papers will be pleased to be able to find him in a specific location at least twice a month.

Filed under California,Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs | permalink | December 19, 2018 at 05:48 PM

Comments

Ron, thanks for putting together the summary of this meeting with the comments of the public put down verbatim.

I have a page on Grasha on my political site. Here folks can see the results of my internet searches. He fooled everyone who voted for him. http://electjeffbowman.com/Steve_Grasha.htm

Posted by: Jeff at Dec 19, 2018 8:49:10 PM

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