Since Idyllwild Water District (IWD) Director Dave Hunt is a public official, he surely is aware that his public utterances are of interest to the public he serves. He hardly could be more public with his utterances than to send them directly to the editor — or to the publishers — of his local newspaper, which he did on July 1 and again on July 17. Standard protocol is that comments to the news media are never “off the record” unless both parties clearly agree in advance. … And we do not keep secret the remarks of public officials.

Hunt’s most recent email reads, in relevant part, as follows:

“Jack and Becky,

“I don’t know what your editor’s obsession is with Hosny Shouman, but after seeing the Past Tense mention in One-Year Ago it’s starting to look to me like harassment based on cultural discrimination! Employees everywhere get performance evaluations all the time, yet somehow he gets singled out.... Employees everywhere use their earned PTO for various legitimate reasons, but again he gets singled out! I know that the editor has ‘someone special’ whispering in her ear, but every time she submits another PRA request in an attempt to investigate a scandal where there is none, it just costs IWD ratepayers more and more money! It sounds like the numerous [name of private citizen deleted] complaints, but now it just seems like harassment based on cultural discrimination. Really sorry to see this from the Town Crier!” 

First off, Town Crier Editor Melissa Diaz Hernandez does not direct the content of the Past Tense column, which is researched and written each week by another TC staffer without her input. Hunt’s suggestion or accusation to us, her employers, of “cultural discrimination” on her part is demeaning and devoid of justification.

Hunt also complains that our editor’s California Public Record Act requests cost IWD time and money to answer. It is now a matter of public record that as a result of IWD Directors’ firing of General Manager Michael Creighton last year, IWD is now financing the legal defense of Creighton’s $578,476 damages lawsuit for wrongful termination. Yet Hunt objects to the costs to IWD of responding to our editor’s requests to view public records regarding this and other unusual IWD matters?

We do note that Hunt is the sole member of the IWD Board of Directors to be mentioned by name in Creighton’s complaint against IWD — no less than three times in Exhibit B thereto.

A story in last week’s TC issue related that not long after Creighton’s firing, IWD Chief Financial Officer Hosny Shouman self-authorized a $12,083 payout to himself by cashing out 160 hours of his own accumulated Paid Time Off. We note that in 2014 a similar such payout authorization to Shouman required two approving signatures those of the GM and the IWD board president. So, what changed at IWD since then that allowed Shouman to solely authorize a payout to himself? No longer a need for the board president’s signature? One would think that in the absence of a GM the board president’s authorization would be even more necessary.

The Creighton firing also deserves, and will receive, public investigation. On Sept. 17, 2019, Creighton, the top executive at IWD at that time, wrote a formal letter of reprimand to IWD Chief Financial Officer Hosny Shouman regarding an independent investigation that was adverse to Shouman. IWD paid the law firm Aarvig & Associates to investigate accusations that Shouman had been harassing and bullying members of IWD’s female staff.

A week later, on Sept. 25, 2019, Creighton wrote a letter of unacceptable performance to Shouman reprimanding him for granting an employee’s “Supplemental Pay Authorization” request without the authority to do so and for giving employees incorrect information and advice regarding how to use their Paid Time Off. 

Later that same day, the IWD Board of Directors fired Creighton.

These are curious circumstances indeed. The general manager formally reprimands the chief financial officer for harassing and bullying employees, which was confirmed by an independent investigation paid for by IWD’s directors, and the directors fire ... the general manager? 

The GM then sues IWD for well more than a half-million dollars ... and the local newspaper is remiss for investigating this? We would be remiss if we did not.

There is now a great deal of taxpayer and ratepayer money on the line at IWD due to the decisions of its board of directors, of which Dave Hunt is a member. 

And, yes, the Town Crier is investigating.