The COO at one of Valley Water’s largest divisions resigned her post suddenly Monday morning after nearly three years as one of the public water district’s top officials.
The executive, Nina Hawk, oversaw operations that included 10 reservoirs, four water treatment plants and 393 acres of recharge ponds and encompassed the district’s groundwater management, drinking water treatment and water conservation efforts.
“This is an unprecedented time (the Coronavirus Pandemic), where many have been presented with the need to re-evaluate life’s priorities,” Hawk wrote in a staff-wide email. “My family, and most importantly, my children have become my highest priority. I have come to the realization I would like to spend more time with my family and effective today (immediately) I am resigning as COO-WUE.”
Though she cited personal considerations as the reason for her hasty exit, Hawk had recently faced conflict-of-interest charges related to her husband’s employment by Valley Water’s largest customer, a contract overseen by the division she headed.
Hawk’s husband, Alexander Hawk, is a manager at the San Jose Water Company and according to sources inside the district, the pair are shareholders of the investor-owned utility. While her husband’s job was disclosed on her state-mandated Form 700 statement of economic interests report, insiders say it wasn’t widely known at Valley Water and did not come up in her hiring interview. The fact that she is a shareholder at San Jose Water Company was not disclosed on her Form 700 either.
One source alleged that it was only within the last 90 days that the Valley Water Board of Directors learned of the conflict as they prepared to hire the next CEO.
Board member Dick Santos told San Jose Inside that he was not aware of any conflict. His colleague Linda LeZotte, however, said she knew Hawk was “operating under a firewall” and didn’t work on any projects relating to SJ Water. LeZotte added that the board is in charge of hiring the CEO and not other executive staff, so information about Hawk’s potential conflict of interests wouldn’t be known by them in the first place.
Hawk did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Hawk previously served as public works director and acting assistant city manager for the city of Milpitas. She left in October 2017 for Valley Water, where, according to Transparent California, she made $368,601 in total pay and benefits in 2019.
Below a copy of the email Hawk sent this morning announcing her exit.
Dear Water Utility Enterprise,This is an unprecedented time (the Coronavirus Pandemic), where many have been presented with the need to re-evaluate life’s priorities. My family, and most importantly, my children have become my highest priority. I have come to the realization I would like to spend more time with my family and effective today (immediately) I am resigning as COO-WUE. This will allow me to prioritize my family in response to this pandemic.As I reflect on the approximately three years of service at Valley Water, I feel a sense of deep gratitude towards CEO Norma Camacho and our employees. You all welcomed me the moment I walked into this organization and hold a special place in my heart. The support, hard work and accomplishments have been nothing short of honorable and incredible.It has been a pleasure to have served as part of this team and I am happy to have formed lifelong friendships during my time here. I am deeply grateful for the invaluable experiences I have had at Valley Water because they were in service to our community.I wish all of you the very best in the future and look forward to when our paths may cross again.Sincerely,Nina Hawk