IWD director accused of conflict of interest: District rejects allegation

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During the public comment period of the March 15 Idyllwild Water District board meeting, Tom Paulek, Idyllwild resident, accused Director Steve Kunkle of a potential conflict of interest.

“Steve is involved with the [Idyllwild Brewpub] treatment system and that is a clear conflict,” Paulek alleged. Neither Kunkle nor other board members responded to Paulek’s claim.

During the March 2016 meeting, the board approved the memorandum of understanding with the Idylllwild Brewpub and the district. Kunkle was one of the four directors voting to approve it; the fifth, June Rockwell, abstained. His vote was inappropriate, Paulek alleges. But the MOU would have still been approved with the other three “yea” votes.

Several months later, the Brewpub told the Santa Ana Regional Water Resource Control Board that Kunkle would be helping with the pub’s own treatment system since he formerly managed IWD’s treatment system. This is the potential conflict of which Paulek alleged.

Current General Manager Jack Hoagland said he has investigated the charge and did not find any evidence of a conflict. Both Kunkle and the Brewpub stated that Kunkle has never work for the brewery.

The MOU regulates the Brewpub’s discharge of effluent into IWD’s wastewater collection system. It specifies several key points, including that the Brewpub’s discharge will be retreated.

In 2015, former General Manager Tom Lynch described the agreement this way: “In many respects, the pre-treated material that will be released will be beneficial to the wastewater treatment process at the plant.”

The Brewpub also agreed to certain chemical limitations, such as keeping the pH within the range of 6 to 9.5. Also, any discharge will occur between Monday and Friday, excluding weekends, which are already IWD’s peak wastewater surge periods.

The MOU was a product of negotiations between the Brewpub, the district and IWD’s wastewater consultant, Wyatt Troxel, whose 2015 report verified how the Brewpub’s discharge would help the district’s waste treatment system.

Kunkle did not join the IWD board until December 2015, months after the consultant report — which led to the MOU — was completed.

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  1. Excellent reporting JP, thank you for bringing clarity to an issue that has been brewing for some time. It is also great to see that there is renewed objectivity within the Idyllwild Water District, as they are a valued asset of our community.

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