Public Citizen Files Complaint Against San Bernardino Water Board Member for Failing to Disclose Water Company Ties
Complaint Charges Susan Lien ? Also a San Bernardino City Council Member ? With Failure to Disclose Employment With Cadiz
OAKLAND, Calif. ? Consumer watchdog group Public Citizen filed a complaint today against a member of the San Bernardino Regional Water Resources Authority for failing to disclose her relationship with a politically powerful water firm that is at the forefront of efforts to profit from California?s water market. The board member is Susan Lien, also a San Bernardino city council member representing the city?s Ward 2.
In her financial disclosure form filed with the San Bernardino Regional Water Resources Authority, Lien did not disclose her income from Cadiz, Inc., an agricultural and water development firm in the Mojave area with rights to significant underground water deposits.
Public Citizen filed the complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). The penalty for an FPPC violation is a $5,000 fine as well as civil liability for perjury.
The San Bernardino Regional Water Resources Authority is located in an area where Cadiz has significant operations. Cadiz is pursuing a controversial $500 million contract to deliver water to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) for 50 years. The San Bernardino water authority sets water policy that could affect the MWD, thereby making it possible that Lien would influence the MWD to favorably negotiate with Lien?s employer, Cadiz.
Lien is the Inland Empire regional manager for Cadiz and is responsible for corporate operations in the Inland Empire. She also serves as the company?s representative to water, civic, environmental, agricultural and governmental entities, providing public outreach and education on the Cadiz Groundwater Storage and Dry-Year Supply Program. That means she is employed to be a liaison to a board on which she serves.
“We are concerned that Susan Lien may vote on matters that impact the company she works for ? a blatant conflict of interest,” said Jane Kelly, director of Public Citizen?s California office. “We are even more concerned that she didn?t disclose this conflict as required by law.”
State law requires public officeholders to fully reveal the extent of their financial interests to avoid conflicts of interest. Lien is obliged to disclose her salary from Cadiz in the FPPC?s Form 700 Statement of Economic Interest. However, on the Form 700 statements she filed with the water authority in 2000-2001 and 2001-2002, she made no mention of her relationship with Cadiz.
Lien was elected to the city council in 1998 and was named to the water board in 1999. She reported her Cadiz income in the 1999-2000 form she filed with the city of San Bernardino in her capacity as a council member. However, in the 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 forms she submitted to the city, she did not report her Cadiz employment. In fact, she affirmatively indicated that she had no reportable interests, event though Cadiz is registered to do business in the city of San Bernardino.
“Susan Lien?s omission in disturbing, especially considering that she reported working for Cadiz in years past,” Kelly said. “Cadiz is registered to do business in San Bernardino and its operations stand to be impacted by influencing San Bernardino water authority votes. That?s a clear conflict.”
Having a water board member on the payroll is one more example of how Cadiz is trying to influence California politics, Kelly said. Cadiz is a significant contributor to California Gov. Gray Davis and other elected state and local officials, including state senators, the lieutenant governor and to a Los Angeles mayoral candidate.
Another Cadiz employee, Tim Shaheen, president and chief executive officer of Sun World International (a wholly owned subsidiary of Cadiz), serves on the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (LARWQCB), which also has the potential to render decisions favorable to the MWD, thereby enabling him to influence negotiations between Cadiz and the MWD. Shaheen has disclosed his employment in forms filed with the LARWQCB.
Lien sits on a number of other panels that are influential in recommending water policy for Southern California, including the Southern California Water Committee Water Marketing/Transfers/Wheeling Task Force and the Association of Ground Water Agencies. In many of those bodies, she is described as an employee of Cadiz.
Click here to view a copy of Public Citizen?s complaint.