California has nearly 450 little-known but extremely important and powerful local water districts, public agencies that supply water — usually bought from wholesalers such as the Metropolitan Water District — to farms, businesses and residents. Over the years, many of these agencies have been caught up in scandals over bribes, fraud and lavish perks for directors and staff.
Many of these agencies have ethics committees that consist of several members of their own boards, meaning whistle-blowers have no one to turn to but insiders and perhaps the very same people about whom they want to lodge complaints.
Central Basin is a member agency of the Metropolitan Water District, which is currently considering a plan to create a more independent oversight office, not subject to political influence, to deal with ethics complaints and ferret out problems before district attorneys or federal agents need to become involved.
The reform plan would bring the Met up to date, but it could also set the standard for smaller districts and govern member agencies such as the Central Basin. Those agencies will vote, on Monday and Tuesday, on whether to adopt the plan for the Met.