2 Water Officials' Paid Leave to End May 24

From a Times Staff Writer

The Santa Margarita Water District Board of Directors said Thursday that the paid administrative leave it has provided to its suspended top two managers will end May 24.

General Manager Walter W. (Bill) Knitz and his deputy, Michael P. Lord, were suspended with pay last month after The Times revealed that the men had accepted nearly $60,000 in gifts from contractors and spent district funds on limousine rides, room service and theater tickets.

Some ratepayers and Assemblyman Mickey Conroy (R-Orange) have expressed anger over the men's paid suspension.

Conroy on Wednesday called it a "paid vacation."

Both men have denied any wrongdoing. The water board on Thursday issued a statement that "there will be a resolution of this matter prior to (May 24)."

In other developments, the board Thursday hired a Santa Ana attorney to represent it during the FBI-Orange County district attorney's office investigation of the water district.

Scott Hart, a spokesman for the agency, said attorney Gerald Wolf would be paid $150 an hour.

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