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May 7, 2019

MSWD Board Meeting, April 11 & 15, 2019

Public Comments

Jeff Bowman spoke.

Mr. President, members of the board, one week after the last election, The Desert Sun did an exposé on you, Steve Grasha. The headline read, "Desert Hot Springs elects a man with history of angry, sexist, racist tweets, to water board"*. Here are a few highlights from that article:

They wrote, "The Mission Springs Water District's newest board member, Steve Grasha, has tweeted at Sen. Lindsey Graham that the senator should shoot himself in the head and that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio should be beheaded. These and other tweets are part of a long history of Twitter posts that include violent, sexist and racist language from a man elected to serve the customers of the water district. Grasha has written many tweets saying politicians or journalists should be executed or urging them to kill themselves. In response to a tweet from journalist Anna Navarro in November 2017 in which she said 1,000 Puerto Ricans had died after Hurricane Maria and millions were without power, Grasha replied: 'Listen you're [sic] a lying C-U-N-T. Not a single Puerto Rican has died because of that effin' Hurricane. Go f--- yourself bitch.' In interviews with The Desert Sun during his MSWD and CVW campaigns, Grasha expressed serious concerns about the levels of chromium-6 and accused Wright and Bowman — and The Desert Sun — of poisoning children."

The irony is, Steve, you drink that very bottled water that sits in front of you during board meetings. Not very poisonous, is it?

If The Desert Sun had written this article prior to the election, you would not have won. The people of this district that voted for you were fooled. You have a lying problem. You lied about yourself, your credentials, your experience. You lied about the district, saying MSD has serious problems and is poisoning children. And you lied about me. And, as The Desert Sun reported, you have a serious anger issue. I was witness to you yelling at our MSWD staff. If the people only knew, as they are learning now.


Statewide Community Infrastructure Program

This is an alternate way of handling assessment districts. The traditional assessment district has certain administrative overhead expenses that makes it financially impractical for a district with only a few parcels. The State of California created the Statewide Community Infrastructure Program that allows small developments to be pooled into a statewide resource, reducing the overhead. SCIP issues bonds twice a year, usually. Ninety-five agencies are participating in the SCIP program, including Banning, Blythe, Cathedral City, CVWD, Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells, Indio and Palm Springs. To participate, an agency joins California Statewide Communities Development Authority which operates SCIP, and then it joins the SCIP program.

From the parcel owner's perspective, SCIP looks like any other assessment district. It shows up on their annual property tax bill until paid off. The developer handles all the work locally and the state government is responsible for issuing bonds and paying for the intended infrastructure. With MSWD this would usually be used to pay connection fees.

Director Grasha asked if this was a proposal to create a district that would cover all of the MSWD, indicating his complete lack of grasp on this. The SCIP program is only used at the developer's initiative on whatever small project he is working on. Then Mr. Grasha asked if this was a plan to give up our connection fees, which suggests he may not understand what an assessment district is. The SCIP program does not require MSWD to give up its connection fees, nor does it take any revenue or source of revenue away from the district. The district is paid upfront from the state bond issue.

John Pavlek of Watermark Homes came to the podium to speak. He favored the SCIP program.

Two resolutions were required in order for MSWD to participate in SCIP. Both were approved 5-0.


California Voting Rights Act Presentation by Demographer

This is part of MSWD's voluntary decision to consider elections by district (AKA elections by division).

The process of going to district elections requires a minimum of four public hearings: two before and two after maps are drawn. The demographer assembles the census data and any other data that MSWD would consider relevant to drawing districts. That information is then shared with the public at the hearings. After two initial public hearings, the district would draw up proposed maps. Those would be presented to the public at the second pair of hearings. Along with the proposed maps there would be a proposed election schedule. New districts that had no currently elected Director residing within them would usually be in the first election cycle.

Director Grasha said he thought MSWD covered about 130 square miles and Desert Hot Springs only 8 square miles (according to Wikipedia, DHS covers 30.61 square miles). He wanted to know how that would be divided up.

If, after the 2020 census, the population of each district is within 10% of being equal, then redistricting would not be required.

Director Grasha suggested waiting to go to district elections until after the 2020 census, but that would mean the first district elections would be in 2022. It's extremely unlikely the district could coast along for that length of time without being forced into districting, which would make it a more expensive process.


Resolution of Intention to Transition to District Elections

Approved 5-0.


Grant Application For Automated Meter Infrastructure

This concerns an application for a grant of up to $1.5 million from the Bureau of Reclamation. The funds would be used in the Automated Meters Infrastructure Project that would replace the current water meters with smart water meters. The full cost to do that will be about $3.7 million. The district may provide up to $2,237,536 in matching funds.

Approved 5-0.


Human Relations Committee Report

The HR Committee (Directors Sewell and Grasha) recommended adoption of a COL adjustment and adding an additional "administration day." Cost-of-living has risen 2.8% since the last time the board granted a COL adjustment. An administration day is an optional day off for a salaried employee (about half of MSWD staff are salaried) that is not a usual holiday. Currently, MSWD allows up to 27 hours of "administration" time. Other nearby districts allow about 40 hours. The proposal to add 8 hours would bring MSWD up to 35 hours. Other requests that the HR Committee did not support were additional holiday time and a lowered employee contribution for insurance. Currently, the district pays 95% of insurance costs.

The HR Committee recommendations were approved 5-0.


I-10/Indian Sewer Collection Financing District

John Soulliere said that preparation for actual construction of the new wastewater treatment plant has generated some renewed interest among the property owners in the I-10/Indian Canyon area in financing themselves some sewers.


General Manager's Report

An estimate was obtained for repairing the roof at MSWD headquarters on Second Street: $289,000! Director Wallum said he would organize a board workshop to discuss that before proceeding. Director Wright said she considered that a high bid.

Well 24 has been shut down for repairs. In the interim, Well 28 is being used. That's the well with uranium removal equipment on it, which works very well, but which is very expensive. The district may sink a new well (Well 42) next year.




*From https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/politics/elections/2018/11/13/desert-hot-springs-elects-water-board-member-history-violent-sexist-tweets/1920936002/
Desert Hot Springs elects Steve Grasha, a man with history of angry, sexist, racist tweets, to water board

The Mission Springs Water District's newest board member, Steve Grasha, has tweeted at Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, that the senator should shoot himself in the head and that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio should be beheaded.

These and other tweets are part of a long history of Twitter posts that include violent, sexist and racist language from a man elected to serve customers of the water district, which services most of Desert Hot Springs.

Grasha was easily elected to the MSWD board last week with 33 percent of the vote. In an interview on Thursday, he acknowledged he uses extreme language in his posts but said he did not think it was inappropriate for a public official.

"I think people should be honest, we have a crisis of honesty in our country," he said. "What they should be concerned about is newspapers like yours, trying to tear down the only honest person."

Grasha has written many tweets saying politicians or journalists should be executed or urging them to kill themselves. He has used terms like "lying c---" and "stupid c---" to insult women.

Grasha also has repeatedly faced judges in Riverside County Superior Court. He was charged with two counts of felony stalking and one felony count of making death threats in 2013. All the charges were either dismissed or discharged.

He said the case was falsified by former District Attorney Paul Zellerbach. Grasha said he then worked with current District Attorney Mike Hestrin to unseat Zellerbach. A representative of the DA's office said Grasha did not "formally" work for Hestrin's campaign.

"I ended his career with one email, boom," Grasha said of Zellerbach's tenure in office.

He was also named, along with relatives, in two lawsuits brought by Rimcrest Community Association, a condo and apartment complex in Palm Springs. He was sued by the condo association for minor infractions; both cases were dismissed.

He has also been taken to small-claims court regarding debt collections at least twice; judges ruled against him and ordered him to pay both times.

Further, he was sued for libel in 1999 by Environmental Engineering Concepts after publishing a letter stating the company had its California State Contractors license revoked, which it had not. The company had been a competitor of Grasha's company, TrueFog. That suit was settled in 2000.

MSWD board member Nancy Wright, who was re-elected last week with 31 percent of the vote, said she recently became familiar with Grasha's social media history and said it wouldn't preclude her from being able to work with him on water district issues.

"I'm a professional and I can work with anyone," she said, adding she did have some concerns about a lack of transparency with his campaign finances. Grasha did not file any campaign finance forms with the county this year or in 2017.

California Fair Political Practices spokesman Jay Wierenga said the agency had received a complaint against Grasha and that its enforcement division has an open case involving Grasha relating to "potential violations of the campaign disclosure provisions of the Political Reform Act," according to documents provided by the FPPC.

In a phone interview, Grasha accused The Desert Sun of poisoning children by running print advertisements from the Mission Springs Water District. He also said his constituents had no reason to be concerned about his language.

"The only people that should be concerned should be people like John Brennan," he said of the former CIA director, whom Grasha accused of being a Muslim who wants to destroy the country.

In response to a tweet from journalist Anna Navarro in October 2017 in which she said 1,000 Puerto Ricans had died after Hurricane Maria and millions were without power, Grasha replied: "Listen you're [sic] lying c---. Not a single Puerto Rican has died because of that f------ Hurricane. Go f--- yourself b----."

In August of this year, officials in Puerto Rico acknowledged 3,000 people died as a result of the hurricane after the results of an independent study were released.

Grasha has tweeted at journalist and author Kurt Eichenwald to "take a bottle of pills and kill yourself," and that former President Barack Obama was a "criminal and should be hunted down and trapped like the lowlife scum that he is." He once responded to a tweet by conservative commentator Bill Kristol about meeting an American citizen who immigrated from Afghanistan and fought against the Soviets by saying if the man was a "hero" he would have killed Kristol.

In response to a tweet from former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward calling for the end of amnesty and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Grasha tweeted he felt threatened at a local convenience store.

"I walked into a 7-Eleven near my house the other day and it literally felt like I was in a foreign country and that I needed an armed security force to get me out of the store safely and alive," he tweeted Jan. 5.

Other tweets have praised President Donald Trump for his relationship with porn actress Stormy Daniels.

"President banged a porn star and walked away with a $211,000 profit! Greatest. President. Ever," Grasha tweeted on Oct. 30.

The majority of his tweets are about local or national news, retweets of the president's tweets or retweets of statements of support for the president from other individuals.

I walked into a 7-Eleven near my house the other day and it literally felt like I was in a foreign country and that I needed an armed security force to get me out of the store safely and alive! And I am not being overly dramatic at all.
— Steve Grasha (@RiversideWeekly) January 5, 2018

His Facebook profile also contains frequent posts about regional and national news and politics. During the campaign, he posted a picture of MSWD board member Jeff Bowman (who was not re-elected last week) naked, with two other individuals — a man who appeared naked, and a topless woman. Bowman, who owns and operates a clothing-optional resort in Desert Hot Springs, appeared to be officiating a wedding.

In the post, Grasha said Bowman was with "a seemingly underage girl" and accused him in an email, provided to The Desert Sun, of child pornography. In an interview with The Desert Sun, he accused Bowman of possibly molesting or trafficking a child, based on the image he shared, which he said originated from Bowman's website.

"The voters decided that wasn't cool," he said, adding that he didn't send out the email or Facebook post to be underhanded. "That was a chance I had to take because people have a right to know what might be going on."

Bowman vehemently denied all of Grasha's accusations. He said the wedding in the photo was from 2006 and the pair pictured were "a lovely couple" who were both of age and had a valid marriage license.

"There's no words to describe when your life is slandered in such a way that your integrity is called into question, your business," he said. "For something that was so sacred to be taken and spun 180 degrees and then the slander, defamation of character. I have never met a person that has done something so heinous."

Grasha said he believed the post may have led to action from the Riverside County District Attorney.

John Hall, the district attorney's office spokesperson, said the office was unaware of the photograph Grasha referenced and said the sexual assault task force, which is separate from the Gang Impact Team, conducts regular sweeps of registered sex offenders, and Bowman was neither a target of the task force nor a registered sex offender.

In an email to Bowman, Desert Hot Springs Police Chief Dale Monday [sic] said Bowman had never been implicated in any child pornography or child sexual exploitation.

Grasha dismissed that statement.

In addition to a prolific social media footprint, Grasha formerly published an online newsletter, the Palm Springs Village Voice, and is the owner of TrueFog USA, which sells the type of misting systems seen outside many Coachella Valley bars and restaurants.

Grasha made several unsuccessful bids for public office before his election to the MSWD board. In 2014, he ran for the District 1 seat on the Coachella Valley Water District board but was defeated by G. Patrick O'Dowd. He ran for a seat on the Palm Springs City Council multiple times, including a special election in 2002 and a regular election in 2013.

He said in 1999 that he had registered as a Democrat to run for the congressional seat encompassing the Coachella Valley (the 44th Congressional District, at that time). He announced in 2011 that he would run for Congress in 2012 as a Republican, challenging then-incumbent Mary Bono Mack for the 36th Congressional District seat, but did not win.

Grasha said winning an election was a "new experience" for him and said Thursday that MSWD voters had overwhelmingly voted to make a change.

He has flip-flopped between saying he was a Democrat or Republican in previous campaigns, though many local races are nominally nonpartisan, and in a 2003 interview with The Desert Sun he said he wasn't concerned about the way those inconsistencies would look. That year, he had touted himself as a Democrat to try to get the endorsement of the Desert Stonewall Democrats, a powerful local LGBTQ political group, during the Palm Springs City Council race.

He is a criminal and should be hunted down and trapped like the lowlife scum that he is. He is responsible for MILLIONS of Dead Americans.
— Steve Grasha (@RiversideWeekly) October 27, 2017

"I understand the process. I understand politics. I understand I should be kissing up to these (special interest) groups," he said.

In interviews with The Desert Sun during his MSWD and CVWD campaigns, Grasha expressed serious concerns about the levels of chromium-6, a cancer-causing agent found at varying levels in drinking water across the county, and accused Wright and Bowman — and The Desert Sun — of poisoning children.

After his election to the MSWD board, Grasha released a statement on social media saying he was "honored" and thanking Bowman, whom he accused of poisoning children and being a child molester, "for his commitment to public service and our water district since 2009."

Grasha said in the statement that the water district was facing challenging circumstances.

"I will work together with anyone and everyone who wants to create a better path forward for families that rely on our sacred duty to protect our most precious resource, our water supply," he wrote. "And I will fight for all of you, each and every day to make your lives better and our entire community stronger."

Bowman was the third highest vote-getter on Election Day, netting 21 percent of the vote. Malcolm McLean finished last among the four candidates, with 15 percent of the vote.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs | permalink | May 7, 2019 at 09:04 PM | Comments (0)