Santa Clara Valley Water District director Gary Kremen faces an uphill battle in his bid to hang on to his Valley Water board seat, trailing challenger Rebecca Eisenberg by more than 3,000 votes in initial early returns Tuesday.
The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters said Eisenberg had 53.3% of early returns as of 11pm Election Day, with Kremen 46.7% percent.
Kremen, who resigned as board chair and took a two-month hiatus this spring after sexual harassment complaints, was stung last week when an independent investigation he requested concluded that he bullied some staff members over a three-year period. He is an eight-year incumbent.
The investigation by San Francisco law firm Renne Public Law Group affirmed seven of 21 allegations Kremen that the board had accumulated from employees, most of them anonymous; rejected 10 allegations and reported there was insufficient evidence in another four. None of the employee complaints involved sexual misconduct, the investigation reported.
Kremen stepped down as water board chair in March and requested the investigation.
The water district board’s Ethics and Conduct Ad Hoc Committee, consisting of Chair Pro Tem John Varela, a former Morgan Hill mayor, and Directors Tony Estremera and Nai Hsueh, put off any reaction to the report until its meeting on Nov. 8.
The board’s policies give it the options to “admonish, sanction or censure” wayward directors.
Water district voters will be electing two directors: for District 7 (the western district, stretching from Palo Alto past Los Gatos, and for District 6, East San Jose.
District 6 incumbent Tony Estremera, on the board for 26 years, was far ahead of two challengers: San Jose Planning Commissioner Chuck Cantrell of San Jose, and Diego Barragan, a local public relations manager, in early returns, leading by wide margins..
Varela will return to the board as the unopposed incumbent for District 1 and former state Sen. Jim Beall will join the board as the unopposed candidate for District 4, held by Linda LeZotte, who is retiring.
Valley Water manages an integrated water resources system offering both wholesale and retail safe water, as well as flood protection and streams management for county residents.
Santa Clara Valley Water District
Tony Estremera 45.2%
Chuck Cantrell 25%
Diego Barragan 29.9%