A statement released by the Santa Clara Valley Water District today put a happy spin on CEO Beau Goldie “retiring/resigning,” but let’s cut to the chase: He got canned.
And rightly so.
The 31-year district employee, the last seven of which had him at the helm of the nearly $400 million public agency in charge of water for 1.9 million people, got too comfortable. It was as if the rules didn’t apply to him—or his buddies within the district, or their husband’s companies—and he played fast and loose with taxpayer dollars. In the end, it cost him his job.
Goldie’s decision to go peacefully is a bit of a surprise. There was word he was refusing to sign a release in which both sides would agree not to sue one another. A bitter divorce would have been entertaining, perhaps, but fruitless for all parties. His legacy has been distilled to seven bullet points, which can be found at the bottom of this column. Go, Beau, go.
A CEO should be many things, but they shouldn’t be too proud to admit mistakes, especially when those mistakes involve taxpayer dollars. A public agency has to be accountable to its constituents, and Goldie was far more concerned with protecting himself and his long-term colleagues than shepherding public dollars in a transparent, responsible manner.
He also used the district counsel’s office to insulate himself against requests for public information. If there is one person who should follow Goldie out the door, it’s the district’s adorably curmudgeon counsel Stan Yamamoto, who seems to think that attorneys aren’t required to show their work.
Multiple times Goldie and Yamamoto have teamed up to prevent the release of damning documents. For example, they have refused to release information related to a “firewall” agreement for Melanie Richardson, an administrator in charge of flood control for the district who at one time oversaw procurement, and also happens to be married to an owner of RMC Water and Environment, a company that bids for and wins big-dollar consulting contracts with the district.
It turns out, there is no “firewall” agreement, according to sources in the district, and any suggestion to the contrary by Goldie, Yamamoto or the spokesflak du jour is a lie.
Here is an internal document from 2011 that proves Richardson has had a conflict of interest in the district’s dealings with RMC.
“The short answer is yes, Melanie does have a financial conflict of interest because she receives community property income from her spouses’ employment with RMC,” wrote Leslie Orta, a district counsel, in a memo to Marc Klemencic, a former chief operating officer who is since retired.
It remains a mystery why Goldie was so insistent on fast-tracking contracts to RMC, but he apparently got another approved before being thrown out the door. We’ll follow up on that.
There remains a question of whether Goldie exceeded his authority when he started modifying contracts without board consent, and whether this put board members at risk of being sued. This definitely could have played a factor in his departure.
One of Goldie’s final acts as CEO was commissioning an investigation into district employees who blow the whistle. It is taking place right now and Yamamoto’s office has dragged its feet on releasing contract details to San Jose Inside. The witch hunt is an obvious misuse of taxpayer dollars in a time of drought.
Goldie’s cavalier attitude rubbed the board of directors raw, and the district’s employees were fed up with a CEO continuing to accumulate raises and performance bonuses while they did the real work day in and day out.
The district can spit shine Goldie’s legacy all it likes, but it would do the public a favor by admitting addition by subtraction has made the agency more accountable.
Beau Goldie’s top accomplishments, according to the Water District.
- Opening of the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center;
- Establishing the district as a leader in the state in terms of drought response;
- Accelerating a purified water program to develop drought-proof supplies to help with future droughts and climate change impacts;
- Seeing the successful passage and early implementation of the 15-year Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program, which voters passed with nearly 74% support in November 2012;
- Improving the Asset Management Program to protect and efficiently maintain investment in district assets;
- Developing and implementing programs to ensure a sustainable workforce in the future as a wave of Baby Boomer retirements is expected; and
- Improving organizational performance and transparency through a comprehensive Management Audit Program.
This article has been updated.