Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Metropolitan Water District considers stronger ethics policy

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The way the Metropolitan Water District investigates ethics complaints would be streamlined under a proposal being considered Monday.

The multibillion-dollar agency that oversees water for 19 million people in Southern California will consider a proposal Monday to overhaul the way ethics complaints are handled. 

The Metropolitan Water District has a $1.5 billion budget and is responsible for delivering 1.7 billion gallons of water every day. 

Its Audit and Ethics Committee will meet this afternoon to vote on a plan that would streamline the way ethics complaints are handled. The current system allows complaints against staff members and contractors to be vetted by the district's general manager, auditor, attorney and Human Resources director. 

“Because there are so many people involved at the outset before an investigation actually commences, there is a sense from people who either have been through the process or who know about it, that there isn’t sufficient confidentiality," said MWD Ethics Officer Deena Ghaly.

"So that if you wanted to bring forward a sensitive matter, the issue would be that many people would know about it."

Under the proposal, the Ethics Office would be responsible for conducting preliminary investigations. 

Despite the size of the agency, the Ethics Office has just three employees and a professional services budget of $15,000. The new proposal would include funding for an additional ethics employee. 

The Metropolitan Water District is "entrusted with a very important work so it needs to maintain the highest standards of all aspects of its work and do it in a way that encourages the public’s confidence because the public does rely on it, whether it realizes that or not," Ghaly said. 

The Audit and Ethics Committee will meet at 1:30 p.m.

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