Valley Water’s board of directors promised to investigate its chairman for possible misconduct, but three months later the public is mostly in the dark.
Board members are meeting next Tuesday to receive an update on an investigation they approved in March. The target of the inquiry is board member Gary Kremen and whether he violated any district policies in his interactions with workers or members of the public.
The board received an update on the investigation on May 24 when the ethics and conduct committee reported Valley Water retained Renne Public Law Group to conduct a confidential and independent investigation of Kremen. The lead investigator is Jenica Maldonado. District spokesperson Matt Keller told San José Spotlight her hourly rate is $425.
Kremen requested the investigation after a nude photo scandal tanked his campaign for county assessor. Kremen refused to resign from the Valley Water board, where he has served as a director since 2014. In March, he requested the investigation and volunteered to temporarily step down as chair while it took place. Kremen said in a statement he wants to reassure Santa Clara County residents sexual harassment isn’t occurring at Valley Water.
The investigation will also focus on at least 11 complaints filed by district employees in recent years about Kremen’s behavior, including allegations of bullying. None mention sexual harassment. Keller said the district has not received any employee complaints since March. Several environmental groups, including Sierra Club California and Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, also asked the board to examine Kremen’s alleged mistreatment of advocates in public meetings.
Valley Water CEO Rick Callender offered little information about the status of the investigation.
“Unfortunately, I have no update or knowledge of where things stand at this juncture,” Callender told San José Spotlight, noting an update will be given at the June 28 meeting.
Director Richard Santos told San José Spotlight he’d like to see the investigation sped up, but acknowledged board members need to keep their hands off the process.
“As far as I know, it’s taken its normal course,” Santos said. “I’m assuming it will be okay, but you don’t really know until you have an investigation.”
Katja Irvin, water committee chair for the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, said the investigator reached out to her recently. She told San José Spotlight they discussed several incidents at public meetings where Kremen was allegedly rude to advocates.
“Mostly we just talked about specific situations, where things happened and how upsetting it was,” Irvin said, noting the alleged bullying behavior made her and other members reluctant to participate in Valley Water meetings.
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of the environmental organization Restore the Delta and one of the people who filed a complaint, said she doesn’t want to talk to the media until after the probe is complete.
“I have not talked with the investigators,” Barrigan-Parilla told San José Spotlight, adding this is mostly due to scheduling problems on her end.
Editor’s Note: Valley Water CEO Rick Callender is on San José Spotlight’s board of directors.