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Water company in East Palo Alto, Menlo Park faces allegations of election fraud, company mismanagement

Original post made on Aug 2, 2019

A resident group is trying to get a new board elected to the Palo Alto Park Mutual Water Company, which has subjected customers in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park to seemingly arbitrary fees, according to an investigation by The Almanac.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 31, 2019, 2:59 PM

Comments (9)

Posted by EPA resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 2, 2019 at 10:02 am

I'm surprised at the level of misinformation being spread by NFBW.

Posted by Another EPA Resident
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on Aug 2, 2019 at 11:29 am

EPA Resident: What specifically? Everything in this story is true and as actually happened. Note, I am NOT a member of NFBW.

Everyone: Please look at the Almanac News version of this story. The reporter of this story posted the full story there, and that's where active comments are (17 so far). Lets keep the comments in one place.

Web Link

Posted by EPA resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 2, 2019 at 3:16 pm

Neighbors for Better Water board candidates have no experience running or managing a water company... stop using this poor "news" reporter to push your propaganda.

Dear Kate Bradshaw,
If you were really an investigative reporter, you would have mentioned that Neighbors for Better Water board candidates have NO background or training in running or managing a water company.... These people are only looking to exploit the company for their own good. You made it clear in this article of their intent to sell out the company to the city or other private companies, and take the water rights away from the residents of Palo Alto park..

Dear Neighbors for Better Water,
There is nothing wrong with the water. You guys just don't want to pay impact fees for your ADU conversions that you rent out for $3000+ each month. At the end of the day, if you want better water, YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO PAY FOR IT.

Dear Residents,
Please don't be fooled by the nonsense. Don't let these people sell out your water rights...

I’ve been following this story for a while. The only conclusion I can draw is that NFBW are a select few of disgruntled water customers that are not happy about paying impact fees for the new rental units they’ve built or garage conversions on their homes or property, without paying for the additional usage or connections. Basically, it seems like they’re trying to capitalize on high rents in the region… at the expense of the company.

The reports on water quality are not something unique to this mutual water company or anything out of the ordinary, the water is directly related to the source. If the water is hard, you can buy a softener at Home Depot for your home. If the water quality being delivered was a health and safety concern, I’m sure it would be national news. However, it’s not. People aren’t getting sick from drinking the water. Let’s stop with the lies.

The common theme seems to be impact fees they’re being charged. Never have I heard of anyone complaining about water quality and refusing to pay their fair share at the same time. It costs money to deliver water. It cost money to live.

I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with the management. I feel like NFBW are more motivated by their own self-interest than that of the community. You shouldn’t have to spread lies and misinformation to sway public opinion in your corner. The false claims and misinformation needs to stop.

Posted by Another EPA Resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 2, 2019 at 3:35 pm

All right, it looks like I'm going to have to repeat my responses from the Almanac News here as well, since comments aren't linked.
Post 1:
DT (Almanac News): "even if 20% of the where true, the courts would have ordered changes..."
The court has ordered changes. The 1990s consent decree against impact fees. Also in the 1990s, the court ordered a court supervised election over very similar issues. The incumbent, corrupt board lost. Last year, the shareholders had to get the court involved to force a special shareholder meeting, because the incumbent board didn't follow the very clear water company bylaws on special meetings, let alone pretty clear state law on shareholders calling meetings. Because the board again was corrupt, the shareholders are again going back to the courts. So that's at least 3 cases where the courts sided with shareholders over the corrupt board, and I think we can all see the writing on the wall that the court will side with them again on this lawsuit, probably forcing another court supervised election where all this fraud, intimidation, etc. by the board won't be able to continue. And this is ignoring the numerous small claim suits the water company has lost over the years. The court records are all publically available, and the water company consistantly loses.

Concerned Resident (Almamac News): Your points are valid, but the current board with it's corruption and nepotism has got to go. A new board can hire the expertise needed from unbiased, trained professionals. The water will continue to flow. Look at another small water company in East Palo Alto / Menlo Park: O'Conner Tract Co-Op Water Company (Web Link). They're similar (though smaller), back from more agrarian times in our cities, and they've managed to direct employees to succesfully, and without corruption, run a small mutual water company.

Post 2:
DT (Almanac News), Jose (Almanac News): I agree the arguments about water quality are overblown. You're right -- a water softener makes it fine out of the tap. Use that, and something like a Brita filter, and you can't tell it ever came from a well.

HOWEVER! The corruption of the current board is not overblown. The last two elections, which I've witnessed, were a sham. I wish the alternative were truly more neutral. You're right some members of NBW group (but not all) have a personal interest in the outcome. But their arguments on the lack of transparency (no published price list of rates, connection fees, or impact fees), the nepotism of the board and management, lack of response if you contact them, lack of transparency (published minutes of board meetings would be good start) and outright not following the companies own bylaws or California State Corporate code, are completely accurate. So their campaign to dislodge the current board as merit.

Lets have a transparent, open, fair, NON-FRAUDULENT election, and see what the shareholders really think. Wipe the slate clean of existing proxies, let both sides lobby the shareholders, let the shareholders vote, and have this monitored by the courts (or other independent entity) to ensure the integrity of the election and count.

In short, the current board absolutely is corrupt, has had many legal actions won in courts against them (or their family, before them). NFBW isn't pristine by any means, and I wish a unbiased, neutral slate of directors was running, but the current board HAS TO GO, and because of fraud and manipulation of elections ignoring the companies own bylaws, and California state law, the only remedy left is the courts.

The water quality, in my opinion, is a side issue.

Posted by Tom
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 3, 2019 at 3:25 pm

I don't see any other major media organization covering this story, other than Kate Bradshaw of the Almanac. The level of collusion between Neighbors for Better Water and the writer of this article is concerning. The Almanac is becoming a fake news organization...

Posted by @Tom
a resident of another community
on Aug 3, 2019 at 6:20 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Peter
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2019 at 12:17 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by @Peter
a resident of another community
on Aug 4, 2019 at 2:52 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Roberto
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 4, 2019 at 7:48 pm

I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with the current management. This article sounds like a well-organized attack.

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