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'Paranoia': SoCal Water Official Dismisses Charges Of Pay-To-Play 'Secret Society'

SAN DIEGO (CBS) — A sharp rise in water rates that began as an inter-agency fight has spawned allegations of a "shadow government" by a San Diego County official.

KNX 1070's Tom Reopelle reports Dennis Cushman of the San Diego County Water Authority claims to have public records detailing an alleged conspiracy to control the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD).


Cushman alleges that he has emails and other documents obtained under the California Public Records Act to prove multiple agencies are working to form "a shadow government to take control of Metropolitan governance and to dictate all of the outcomes and rate decisions".

"These are their words, a invitation-only secret society, a pay-to-play organization that sanitizes agendas once they've been discovered," said Cushman.

But Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager for MWD, said partnerships among various agencies are common in efforts to tackle various concerns and that the meetings are far from secret.

"Several of these agencies tell me they report on it in open session to their own directors," he said.

Some of the charges leveled at the agency include a "weighted vote" that assures passage of any vote by MWD directors; membership based solely on "a dues-paying pay-to-play basis"; a coordinated effort to conceal the meetings from public oversight by using "private" email addresses and a "secure web link" to avoid any communications leak; and the role of executives such as Kightlinger in coordinating "numerous activities" with the group.

Kightlinger flatly denied the accusations.

"I would say characterize that as either paranoia or just trying to make a mountain out of a molehill," he said.

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