Valley Water Board Censures Director Eisenberg for Abusive Comments

The Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors on March 14 censured Director Rebecca Eisenberg for a pattern of abusive conduct toward water district employees, including racist and sexist comments.

Following an often tense four-and-a-half hour public hearing, the board also stripped Eisenberg of all internal and external committee assignments, severely limited her interaction with district employees for at least one year and required her to enroll in anti-discrimination and behavioral management training within two months.

The board action followed hours of public comments that included calls for her resignation and a tearful apology from Eisenberg.

The embattled director’s contrite and apologetic demeanor today contrasted sharply with months of allegedly combative and confrontational behavior that led to an investigative report substantiating numerous allegations of abusive conduct, as well as commentaries on her Medium pages sharply critical of district policies and the district's treatment of her.

It was revealed at the hearing that District Attorney Jeff Rosen decided not to charge Eisenberg for theft charges, which had been sought by Valley Water CEO Rick Callender when Eisenberg in January walked out of the district office carrying a copy of the 2,000-page report that accused her of the abusive conduct.

In response to an inquiry from San Jose Inside, the District Attorney’s Office released a statement confirming that decision.

“We did not charge Director [Rebecca] Eisenberg with a crime for taking the investigative report printout because there was insufficient evidence of the criminal intent necessary for a theft charge,” the DA statement said. “This decision does not condone Director Eisenberg’s conduct, nor does it affect the Water District’s civil or internal proceedings related to this matter.”

Eisenberg also was censured by the board for "mishandling confidential information" – taking the report home, even though she assured the board that she shared the document with no one, not even her lawyer.

Board Chair Nai Hsueh formally asked Eisenberg to return her copy of the report, which identified district employees and managers who had been targets of months of criticism from Eisenberg.

The censured director refused, claiming that she no longer had the report. She said she turned the report and all of her water district files over to federal officials, who she hoped would open an investigation of what she said were corrupt and fraudulent actions by Valley Water in the district’s applications for federal aid for water conservation and flood control projects, including the controversial Pacheco Dam project. She has declined to offer any details of the allegations.

Speakers at the hearing included several representatives from the NAACP and others who called for Eisenberg’s immediate resignation because of the allegations of racist comments to staff and fellow board members.

Other speakers from Valley Water’s District 7 warned that curtailing Eisenberg’s activities in committee and staff work could effectively disenfranchise residents of the northern section of the sprawling water district.

Director Tony Estramera gave the following examples of Eisenberg’s behavior in 2023 that an independent investigation had substantiated:

  • Sexist – “Men love to build things.”
  • Racist – “English isn’t your first language” to Hsueh.
  • Ageist – “I’m the only non-Boomer on the board.”

The report substantiated seven allegations from Callender, but could not substantiate another 18. The report specifically did not determine that Eisenberg’s numerous run-ins with the Valley Water CEO were based on his sex or the fact that he is Black, as he alleged.

In response to Eisenberg’’s apologies, Estramera said, “You’ll have an opportunity to show us whether you definitely have changed.”

Eisenberg said last year that the investigation had been in retaliation for her raising concerns of rampant sexism at the water district and for criticizing the Pacheco Dam project.

At today’s hearing, she was conciliatory and contrite. “I have chosen not to continue this battle,” Eisenberg told the board. “I have chosen not to fight with you – there has been too much distraction.”

“I am grateful for this investigation,” she said. “I take very seriously that I have offended others and hurt the feelings of others, and I take responsibility for those actions.”

Walter Wilson, one of dozens of speakers at the hearing, discounted the value of Eisenberg’s apologies. “Racism and sexism has no place in Silicon Valley,” he said. “I’m shocked that this board, that none of you guys stood up and defended those people [from Eisenberg’s alleged abusive conduct].”

Mike Kasperzak, a former Mountain View mayor and council member, pleaded with the water board: “We deserve a fully operational director. Removing her from committees…hurts the people of the district – you are affecting their rights as customers and citizens.”

Rev Jethro Moore, former president of the Silicon Valley NAACP, told the water board that the 15-month controversy surrounding Eisenberg’s behavior “casts a dark shadow over your organization.”

“We expect swift and decisive remedial action by the board,” he said.

Three decades of journalism experience, as a writer and editor with Gannett, Knight-Ridder and Lee newspapers, as a business journal editor and publisher and as a weekly newspaper editor in Scotts Valley and Gilroy; with the Weeklys group since 2017. Recipient of several first-place writing and editing awards, California News Publishers Association.

9 Comments

  1. She did no worse the past and current directors. Look back at boardroom waste?
    Or lack of district oversight! Why do you think it’s called golden spigot!

  2. “We expect swift and decisive remedial action by the board”. No one seems to get it. The worst the board can do is censure her.

    “…the board also…required her to enroll in anti-discrimination and behavioral management training…” Sure they did. And if she chooses not to attend re-education camp, they can re-censure and re-require. Big whoop.

    Director Estramera did nail her with those three examples. It’s hard to understand why any thinking person in liberal Silicon Valley would make remarks like those in a work environment. With friends in private someone might let off a little steam.

    By the way, “Agist” will never be a Wordle word any more than “Sexist” or “Racist”.

  3. Things are so needlessly complicated now. She should have been fired and even arrested promptly when beginning to steal documents from the premises.

    It’s “ageist” and “ageism” with an E normally in the US as well as in the UK.

    “Boomer” (for Baby Boomer) now is just a typical stupid as well as ageist insult by so many failures now, usually irrespective of the actual ages of the insulted.

  4. Downstate Cheesehead by birth, actually. (Since Milwaukee has no NFL team)

    She has been a Bay Area resident since the mid-1980s.

  5. agist (sic)

    baaaaahahahaha

    what a clown show

    Boomers have bankrupted this country, presiding over its moral, financial and cultural downfall. Worse still they are unwilling just to move to Palm Springs and live off the interest. They are the absolute worst and their lack of self-awareness borders on criminal.

    Boomers – Go away. Stop trying to run the government, the charities, and the churches. Go drink your golden years away at some seniors only condos. I hear the swinging is legend.

  6. You have your cohorts or your ages, and who was in charge when, mixed or confused, Mr. Kulak, stereotypes and related assumptions included. It varies who did what on each decade, even though there are enough Boomers to implicate a number of them, too, in decline. This year they will be ages 60 to 78 and now are over 20% of the population. It’s — sad how many get this wrong.

    It’s their elders who are to blame for much earlier and who still are or (Feinstein) have been yes, classic lifer gerontocrats in government. I’m glad to say Gen X has pulled itself and its reputation out of its descent, though far from everyone, including Ms. Eisenberg, not to mention the frequent Xers who strip-mine or bleed businesses now, or do damage in government. Millennials and Zs are and have been notably worse so far.

  7. This year they will be ages 60 to 78 and now are over 20% of the population. It’s — sad how many get this wrong.

    A number of issues here…

    1) the decline has been ongoing since 1968, and we have 55 years of moral, financial, and cultural decline. The fact that said Boomer generation is still 20% of the population, but still have all the wealth and almost all the power is testament to their iniquity.

    2) Millennials are by and large the spawn of the worst of the boomers, the late boomer, and deserve the entire dish they have been served, sins of the father and all…

    3) Gen X, we are the best of us, have been raised predominately in the post-1986 world in which the meta-narratives and social institutions had been fully razed to the ground and subsequently checked out of all of them to make sure our spawn, Gen Z, had two parents around, at least one home when they got home, taught results and facts matter, and are productively educated.

    4) The biggest issue with Gen Zs that they have less political power than Gen X and have the scar of the Rona “shut down”, lead in most part by boomer overreaction and selfishness, on their social development. Gen Z will destroy government institutions by gaming exploits, leveraging loopholes, grinding prop-bets, and kiting authorities while living in their parents’ house, something I as a Gen X parent wholly support as they will set up bots to manage my investments and rent out rooms in our house as I travel full time instead of waiting for my grass to grow enough to mow it like grand-boomer-pa/ma…

    If there was any justice, Boomers would have their suffrage revoked, their wealth expropriated.

  8. There is notable resentment and mmm, substitution, too… good luck and hopefully if some (late?) Boomer or Boomers did you wrong you’ll get past it eventually, even if you have to rely ultimately on the passage of time for that.

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