Santa Clara County water district sets scope of harassment investigation
The Valley Water board of directors: Tony Estremera, Richard Santos, John L. Varela, Gary Kremen, Barbara Keegan, Nai Hsueh and Linda J. LeZotte. Photo courtesy of Valley Water.

Valley Water officials have defined the scope of their investigation of board member Gary Kremen, but are leaving out the main issue that sparked the request.

The Valley Water board voted 6-0 Tuesday to approve an investigation into whether Kremen violated any district policies in his interactions with workers or members of the public. Kremen abstained from voting.

Last week, the board agreed to have its ethics and conduct committee launch an investigation into Kremen’s behavior with employees, following a request Kremen made earlier this month.

Kremen, who temporarily stepped down as board chair to facilitate the investigation, specifically requested an inquiry into whether he has been the subject of complaints about sexual harassment. That direction was removed from the investigation after board member Linda LeZotte pointed out the board hasn’t received any complaints about this issue.

“Why are we going to spend time looking at claims of sexual harassment when there have been none?” LeZotte asked.

Kremen requested an investigation earlier this month following a San José Spotlight story about a former staffer on his campaign for Santa Clara County assessor who accused Kremen of inappropriate behavior. Kremen, who has denied the allegations, dropped out of the campaign but said he would remain on the Valley Water board, which he was first elected to in 2014.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Kremen said he wants the board to address the sexual harassment issue to clear his name.

“I think it should stay because then there’s still a cloud and someone will say you didn’t investigate that,” he said.

Board member Tony Estremera agreed the scope of the investigation should include whether any sexual harassment has taken place, but he noted any inquiry into violations of the district’s governmental policies will cover that issue anyway.

“If there’s none, there’s none,” he said. “It’ll take what, two seconds, for the investigator to say there’s no issue?”

Last week, the board agreed to expand the scope of its investigation to touch on other complaints raised by workers and members of the public. According to public records obtained by San José Spotlight, at least 11 employees have complained about Kremen’s behavior in recent years, including allegations about bullying and threatening people. None of the complaints mentioned sexual harassment.

Several environment groups—including Sierra Club California and Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter—asked the board last week to look into Kremen’s alleged mistreatment of environmental advocates in recent years.

Contact Eli Wolfe at  or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter.

Editor’s Note: Valley Water CEO Rick Callender is on San José Spotlight’s board of directors.

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