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A photo shot without flash on June 11 shows a Kern County Sheriff’s deputy who was diverted from his work protecting the public. The Lebec County Water District board president disrupted her own meeting because a news photographer quietly took a flash photograph in the context of reporting the news, in compliance with public meetings law. [Meyer photo]
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The Mountain Enterprise documented independent photographer Gunnar Kuepper finding the door to LCWD’s public meeting locked on May 14. Only the press was kept out. [Meyer photo]
By The Mountain Enterprise
Last week, residents of Maury County, Tennessee were told they could be arrested as terrorists for complaining about poor water quality. Officials were intending to intimidate. But the water agency quickly backpedaled and apologized for the misstatements made by their colleague.
If only a clear-thinking person here at Lebec County Water District (LCWD) could step forward and apologize for the conduct of LCWD’s president, then water customers could see their hard-earned money being spent on water business instead of foolishness that could lead to very large legal bills.
While Tennessee was having its problems, we reported about a peculiar series of incidents at LCWD’s so-called “public” meetings in Lebec. For the past two months LCWD board president Julie McWhorter has chosen to shut down the district’s meetings after a news photographer quietly took a flash photograph.
At the district’s May 14 meeting, McWhorter demanded that the meeting room be cleared. Then she allowed select persons back into the room before the door to the public meeting room was locked. Two photographers were blocked from entering the room—one was an employee of this newspaper and the other works independently.
At the June 11 meeting McWhorter denied that the door had been locked at all; then she claimed it was not intentionally locked. Then she claimed that the lock had been fixed.
Locking a door to prohibit citizens from attending a public meeting is a violation of California’s open meeting laws.
This board president—and the board members who act on her often-ridiculous declarations of false authority and refusal to follow state laws—are becoming a menace to the very purpose the water district is supposed to serve: To provide the public with clean, healthy water.
Ms. McWhorter fabricates “disturbances” at her meetings so she can claim a disturbance has been made by someone else.
That “someone else” is the newspaper that published an email McWhorter wrote using her official district account to make racial slurs against the water company’s own customers.
McWhorter is proceeding as though this water district has unlimited funds available for such risky games as violating the public’s rights. If she lands her water district in court, LCWD customers could be on the hook for a hundred thousand dollars in attorney’s fees and court costs.
If the board president is unable to follow state laws, and if she insists on putting the district at risk, wasting the public’s money to pursue a personal vendetta rather than the public’s business, perhaps she should follow the advice in the May 21, 2012 Kern County Grand Jury report to the Lebec County Water District’s board, and just resign.
This is part of the June 28, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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