Complaint targets water official

The president of a Huntington Beach advocacy group has filed a complaint against the chairman of Southern California's largest water district, claiming he failed to properly report income he and his wife received from the water industry.

Merle Moshiri, the president of Residents for Responsible Desalination, said she filed a complaint March 13 with the Fair Political Practices Commission against John Foley, the board chairman of Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

The complaint alleges that Foley failed to report upward of $600,000 in income that his wife, Mary J. Foley, received from consulting she did for both Poseidon Resources and the desalination efforts headed by the Municipal Water District of Orange County. Mary J. Foley is the principle of Foley Consulting Inc.

Foley declined to comment. However, Metropolitan spokesman Armando Acuna emailed the Independent a statement that Foley shared during the district's Feb. 28 executive committee meeting. In it, Foley said he and his wife's finances are kept separately and he was under the impression that he did not have to report her income.

"It was our understanding that because our incomes have always been kept separate, her income was not a reportable financial interest," Foley said in the statement.

Moshiri is also looking into whether Foley voted on issues on which his wife consulted, which could pose a conflict of interest.

"And, it was our understanding that because Mary Jane never worked directly on any matter for Metropolitan, nothing further needed to be done," Foley said in the Feb. 28 statement. "I now realize that it would have been better to have abstained on votes pertaining to contracts between Metropolitan and firms that Mary Jane consults with, and I will do so in the future."

Moshiri said Foley has not provided proof that his wife's income is kept separately.

"To me, the choice was arrogance or ignorance, and neither one makes for good public policy," she said.

Moshiri, who is against both Poseidon's and the municipal district's desalination efforts, said she decided to file the complaint after watching how closely Foley and others on the water district board are intertwined with the projects.

Connecticut-based Poseidon is looking to build a desalination plant in Huntington Beach to convert seawater into drinking water.

Foley was appointed to the Metropolitan Water District after serving three terms on the Municipal Water District.

As president of Metropolitan, Foley has the power to appoint people to the desalination committee, Moshiri said.

"He has been very strident of his support of desalination," she said. "How are people who are coming with alternatives going to have a fair shot? Do I expect a fair vote out of him? No. I expect a biased vote."

Over the past 10 years, Moshiri said, she attended dozens of Municipal Water District meetings and watched with frustration how closely connected the players of Poseidon were to those of the water district.

Moshiri said she finally made up her mind to file a complaint after reading about a Tustin contractor who filed complaints against councilmembers throughout Orange County, including in Huntington Beach, who regularly voted themselves onto paid committees and boards.

Fair Political Practices Commission spokeswoman Tara Stock said a decision on whether to investigate Foley has not been made yet. A decision is usually made within 14 days of the filing date.

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