In February 2014, when the directors of the Idyllwild Water District hired General Manager Tom Lynch, they required him to “receive your State of California Water Treatment Grade II Operator Certificate” within six months.
At the July 2016 board meeting, Lynch told the public his certificate was pending. Two weeks later, Vice President John Cook responded to this exchange with the following comment, “Tom is making satisfactory progress towards the goal.”

On Monday, Aug. 15, Cook was asked what “satisfactory progress meant.” Cook replied, “He has taken the test.”

He apparently did not know that the State Water Resources Control Board has informed the Town Crier that Lynch has taken but not passed the exam three times. When asked if three examinations without passing were satisfactory, Cook said he “would have to discuss it with Tom.” He would not elaborate on whether taking the Level II exam three times without a pass was satisfactory without talking to Lynch first.

After discussing the situation with Lynch, President Jim Billman and Cook have no problem with Lynch’s evasive responses and inability to comply with his hiring requirement.

Billman said, “[Lynch] is doing what we asked. He is awaiting the final results of his exam.

“We requested that he have a rudimentary knowledge of treatment, not waste water,” Billman continued. “He was hired as an administrator and is doing quite well.”

“Jeff Smith and the Town Crier administration is barking up the wrong dead tree,” Cook stated. “Tom Lynch was hired for his management experience and evidence for this choice has been amply demonstrated.”

According to Cook, Lynch has added two wells (12 and 27) back into production. Their production has increased from 10 to 46 gallons per minute. This has increased their contribution to the district’s supply by 33 percent.

Further, Lynch has brought the disabled horizontal wells back into production and will augment their productivity with more rehabilitative work this fall. While Lynch announced in June 2015 that the horizontal wells were back on line and added 10 percent to supply that was insufficient to re-consider the Stage 2 status, now he has said the horizontal wells need rehabilitation to improve production.

Cook also congratulated Lynch with obtaining more than $400,000 in grants, which is more than his salary. Cook also credited Lynch with obtaining the district’s recycling project. IWD had submitted paperwork years before Lynch was hired, however. Finally, he complimented Lynch for encouraging three underperforming employees to leave the district’s employment.

“Water treatment and distribution is not an area where the district has experienced problems,” Cook stated.

June Rockwell, who was elected a year ago and only assumed her board seat in December, replied, when told of Lynch’s licensing issues, “Does that mean we have another inadequate employee?”

This is a reference to Lynch’s frequent comments on the incompetence and errors of district employees.

William Curry, who retired from San Juan Capistrano Water District, said the Level II exam is not difficult. “You just have to know the state nomenclature. But you do have to pass the math part, even if you know the nomenclature.”

When asked if the Level II exam was difficult, Fern Valley Water District General Manager Victor Jimenez replied, “Not really. I passed it on my first time. I had only two water courses and wasn’t technically in a water position {at that time}. Then I passed my Grade III on the first time.”

The other IWD board members, Michael Freitas and Steve Kunkle, could not be reached for comment.


  1. The water district is a joke for not even living up to their own hiring standards, and this is just the latest event in a avalanche of bad decisions made by the directors. Nice try in attempting to moonwalk out of this by saying the General Manager’s attempts to meet the hiring requirements were adequate.