Can­di­dates trade shots dur­ing IID Div. 1 Fo­rum

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY ED­WIN DEL­GADO Staff Writer

EL CEN­TRO — The fifth and fi­nal Im­pe­rial Val­ley can­di­date fo­rum had enough fire­works to serve as a wor­thy grand fi­nale to the se­ries.

In­cum­bent Im­pe­rial Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­trict Divi­sion 1 Di­rec­tor Juanita Salas and her op­po­nent, El Cen­tro City Coun­cil­man and for­mer Mayor Alex Car­de­nas not only had op­pos­ing views about en­ergy and wa­ter pol­icy, they also didn’t have very nice things to say about each other.

Over the course of the fo­rum, Salas made three al­le­ga­tions re­gard­ing Car­de­nas that he didn’t di­rectly ad­dress but also as of Thurs­day evening could not be ver­i­fied.

For starters, Salas al­leged Car­de­nas per­son­ally threat­ened some of her sup­port­ers who voiced sup­port for her.

She also said that Court Ap­pointed Spe­cial Ad­vo­cates, the non- profit or­ga­ni­za­tion for which Car­de­nas is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, had not filed IRS 990 forms for the last five years. Fi­nally she charged that last year Car­de­nas sought to be­come IID board mem­ber through a pos­si­ble ap­point­ment, rather than by voter ap­proval.

“It’s re­ally un­for­tu­nate that some of my sup­port­ers have been called at­tacked, mes­saged by my op­po­nent threat­en­ing them to take their name off my web­site, it’s been hap­pen­ing, and I don’t ac­cept that,” Salas said.

Though he didn’t specif­i­cally ad­dress the issues brought up by Salas in the fo­rum Car­de­nas also took some shots at her by ques­tion­ing past con­tro­ver­sies and ques­tion­ing her mo­ti­va­tions.

Af­ter Salas said he didn’t have any wa­ter or power ex­pe­ri­ence relevant to the po­si­tion he was seek­ing Car­de­nas re­sponded:

“You can have all the wa­ter and ex­pe­ri­ence in the world, but if you do not have ethics that is a prob­lem. My op­po­nent is sur­rounded by un­eth­i­cal be­hav­ior that fol­lows her ev­ery­where she goes from IVC (Im­pe­rial Val­ley Col­lege) to now at the IID,” Car­de­nas said. “You need to have a foun­da­tion of moral prin­ci­ple, not some­one who is con­sis­tently on the front page of the news­pa­per be­cause of the un­eth­i­cal de­ci­sions she makes and the con­tro­ver­sies that sur­round and fol­low her.”

When it came to the talk­ing points of the fo­rum, the one is­sue in which Salas and Car­de­nas clearly dif­fered was the cur­rent lit­i­ga­tion the IID is in­volved in with Michael Abatti.

Car­de­nas was vo­cal about his sup­port with the board’s de­ci­sion to ap­peal the rul­ing made by an Im­pe­rial County Su­pe­rior Court judge and crit­i­cized Salas for ask­ing the board to con­sider with­draw­ing the ap­peal in Feb­ru­ary.

Salas ques­tioned how much Car­de­nas knew about the law­suit, she said board mem­bers get all the in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the case.

She also told the pub­lic the big rea­son she has op­posed the ap­peal is to avoid to con­tinue to spend money on lit­i­ga­tion rather than find com­mon ground.

When it comes to the issues re­lated to for­mer IID engi­neer­ing con­sul­tant ZGlobal, both rec­og­nized the sever­ity of the mat­ter but ex­pressed dif­fer­ent ap­proaches as to how to han­dle the sit­u­a­tion.

Salas voiced her frus­tra­tion that em­ploy­ees of ZGlobal have been hired by IID af­ter the dis­trict ter­mi­nated its ser­vice con­tract with the firm last Oc­to­ber. “We can­not con­tinue to do busi­ness, as usual, we can­not con­tinue to be in the front page of the Desert Sun and the IV Press with re­gard to all these scan­dals go­ing on with ZGlobal,” she said.

Car­de­nas said he be­lieves trans­parency can lead the IID to move away from the con­tro­versy and said he wants the next en­ergy man­ager to be fully aware of the im­por­tance of their de­ci­sions and he or she “needs to be and should be held ac­count­able.”

To close the fo­rum, both can­di­dates were asked what pol­icy changes they would like to see changed in the fu­ture. Car­de­nas said he would seek to explore av­enues to in­vest in ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing ad­vance­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for IID em­ploy­ees who want to bet­ter them­selves. He also ex­pressed in­ter­est in try­ing to re­duce or elim­i­nate a board di­rec­tor’s abil­ity to spend thou­sands of dol­lars when trav­el­ing out of the re­gion.

For her part, Salas said her goal was for the dis­trict to rely more on lo­cal ser­vice providers rather than on out­side firms. How­ever, she said she would in­sist on a stip­u­la­tion pre­vent­ing IID from hir­ing any firm that has in­di­vid­u­als re­lated to any of the IID board mem­bers.

The five can­di­date fo­rums were or­ga­nized by the Coali­tion of La­bor Agri­cul­ture and Busi­ness and the Im­pe­rial Val­ley Veg­etable Grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion. The fo­rums were in­tended to al­low the pub­lic to fa­mil­iar­ize with some of the dif­fer­ent can­di­dates ahead of the June 5 elec­tion.

In­cum­bent Juanita Salas and chal­lenger Alex Car­de­nas had the op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress the pub­lic dur­ing the can­di­date fo­rum in El Cen­tro on Thurs­day evening ahead of the June 5 elec­tion. ED­WIN DEL­GADO PHOTO

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