After several delays, it’s unclear if the investigation into a leader of Silicon Valley’s largest water supplier will be made public in time for the upcoming election.
Gary Kremen, a Valley Water board member running for another term in November, is the subject of an independent investigation following a series of complaints accusing him of bullying and other abuses of power revealed by San José Spotlight last spring. The investigation will attempt to determine whether Kremen violated any district policies.
The probe has already taken nearly seven months—and after delays and missed deadlines, some members of the Valley Water board of directors are frustrated with the process.
“This is all an attempt to put this investigation to be delivered after the election,” Director Linda LeZotte said at Tuesday’s meeting after Director Tony Estremera suggested the results could be delayed at least two more weeks. “You gotta birth the baby. I mean, it’s been seven months.”
LeZotte and fellow Director Barbara Keegan have repeatedly stressed the importance of publishing the report before the election and warned the public is disappointed with the board’s slow progress on the probe.
The investigative report was initially scheduled to be released in late September or early October, but now it will be at least Oct. 18 before the investigator, Jenica Maldonado of Renne Public Law Group, can complete the investigation and the board can review her findings, Estremera said.
Estremera, who chairs the water board’s ethics and conduct committee, expects the report to be finalized and disclosed to the public at the Oct. 25 board meeting—two weeks before the election on Nov. 8. If another director files a sanction to suppress the findings, Estremera said the process could take even longer.
“The process is very slow and cumbersome, but we all believe in due process and fairness,” he said.
The controversy began when Kremen faced accusations of sharing unsolicited, partially nude photos with a former staffer working for his recent campaign for Santa Clara County assessor. Kremen has denied wrongdoing, claiming the pictures were accidentally included in a photo dump. The anonymous staffer who accused Kremen of harassment claimed the photos, paired with other inappropriate behavior by Kremen, forced them to quit working for his campaign.
Kremen dropped out of the assessor race shortly after San José Spotlight reported on the accusations in February. Following the accusations, Kremen requested an investigation at Valley Water in the hopes that it would clear his name. He refused to resign from the water board, but has stepped down as board chair during the investigation.
In March, San José Spotlight found Kremen was the subject of at least 11 complaints since 2018, accusing the director of abuse of power, bullying Valley Water workers and emailing promotions for his assessor campaign to Valley Water work accounts. It’s unclear whether any of these complaints constitute a policy violation.
Maldonado has to interview two more witnesses before she can compile her findings, Estremera said. Maldonado declined to comment, citing attorney-client privilege.
One of the remaining witnesses is Kremen, who told San José Spotlight he still has not been interviewed and stressed he wants to wrap up the investigation and move on.
“I, of all people, would like the investigation to be complete and for the findings to be open to the public to clear my name,” Kremen said. “As with all things government, a written process has to be followed, taking time.”