Published On: October 6th, 2019Categories: Uncategorized

A board member for the embattled West Valley Water District in Rialto is under fire for a campaign flier featuring a doctored photo that swapped out a colleague’s image for that of what appears to be an unknown Latino.

Greg Young, who seeking a second term in the November election, mailed out the flier this week to more than 3,700 ratepayers in his District 5 region, which includes the unincorporated area of Bloomington and parts of Rialto.

The original photo, used in a June 2018 water district news release, shows Young and fellow board member Kyle Crowther holding an oversized rebate check for nearly $49,000 made out to the Colton Joint Unified School District. Several school district officials and board members were also pictured.

A photo sent out as part of a news release by the West Valley Water District in June 2018 shows board members Kyle Crowther and Greg Young holding a large check presented to the Colton Joint Unified School District. Crowther is pictured on the left holding the check, and Greg Young is pictured on the right. (Photo courtesy of West Valley Water District)

In the campaign mailer, however, Crowther’s image had been replaced with what appears to be that of a Latino man who has not been identified.

This flier sent out to voters by Greg Young, who is running for re-election to the West Valley Water District’s board of directors in Rialto, appears to include a manipulated photo of a check presentation. (Flier courtesy of Greg Young campaign)

Digital manipulation acknowledged

In a telephone interview, Young acknowledged the photo was digitally manipulated to remove Crowther’s image because he doesn’t want to be associated with him. That’s because a district scandal has pitted board members  against one another amid allegations of  bribery, kickbacks and other alleged financial improprieties, prompting an audit by the state Controller’s Office, said Young, who was first elected to the board of directors in 2015.

“I do not want to be associated with someone who is currently under investigation by the state Controller’s Office,” said Young, who says he does not know who the man is in the photo he used to replace Crowther’s image. He said the mystery man’s photo was “publicly available” and pulled from the water district’s Facebook page.

He said he does not believe what he did was unethical or dishonest, and that he may use the doctored photo in other campaign mailers as well.

“I used it to publicize myself, which is within my rights to do,” Young said. “I don’t think there is anything wrong or unethical about that.”

Photo not authorized

The water district did not authorize Young’s use of its photo for political purposes, nor does it condone Young’s decision to doctor the photo, board President Michael Taylor said in a statement Friday.

“I find it both sad and disturbing that a publicly elected leader of the community would willingly and purposely misuse and misrepresent an official governmental district event for personal political gain,” Taylor said. “You would think it would be common knowledge to anyone not to engage oneself in such an unethical manner, but that’s why there are rules and policies in place to govern conduct.”

West Valley spokesman Naseem Farooqi said in an email Friday that the district “would never authorize the use of District photos for any political campaign materials.”

“The District has a strict policy prohibiting any use of district resources for personal gain, such as in this instance a political campaign,” Farooqi said. “The District does not support nor does it authorize any of its employees or Board of Directors to flagrantly distort and/or misrepresent any of its events, policies, or practices to the public in any shape, fashion and/or manner whatsoever.”

In June, water district board Director Clifford Young, former Chief Financial Officer Naisha Davis and assistant board Secretary Patricia Romero filed a lawsuit alleging attorneys for the district and a consultant conspired with other board members and staff to misappropriate $1 million in public funds. The suit alleged they accepted bribes and kickbacks in exchange for lucrative contracts and gifts, including trips to Mexico, Las Vegas and Miami, tickets to sporting events and hefty campaign contributions, among other things.

“The (state) controller is finding some troubling things that confirm what’s alleged in the lawsuit,” said Greg Young, who is no relation to Clifford Young. “If you look at the case that Mr. Crowther’s involved in … most everything that’s alleged, the auditors found evidence of.”

Crowther, who also is running for re-election to the board, scoffed at Young’s allegations and denied he’s a target of the investigation. He declined to comment on the status of the audit.

‘Crossed the ethical line’

As for Young’s manipulation of the water district photo, Crowther said, “As community leaders, we have a commitment to represent all of our residents and not use any ethnicities or backgrounds to benefit someone’s political career. Unfortunately, Greg Young has crossed the ethical line. I am sickened by his intention of using ethnicities for his own political gain.”

Greg Young said the ethnicity of the man whose photo he used to replace Crowther’s on the flier did not factor into what he did.

Bloomington resident Jackie Cox, who is running against Young in the November election, said she received the flier in the mail on Wednesday and was informed by a friend of the “Photoshopped” image.

“I think it’s terrible,” said Cox, calling Young’s actions unethical. “That shows you he’s sneaky. He’s very sneaky.”

Scandal envelopes colleague

The most recent lawsuit filed in June by Clifford Young, Davis and Romero is the latest development in a 2-year-old scandal that has rocked the district, beginning with allegations by several former administrators and other staff that Clifford Young abused his power, hiring unqualified friends and political allies and firing people he believed were either betraying him or not “going along to get along,” all of which is in violation of state and federal labor laws. He also has been accused of misappropriating district funds, and several lawsuits have been filed.

Clifford Young has denied all the allegations against him, and said in December 2017 that he has served in the public sector all his adult life and has never been accused of harassment or malfeasance. He said at the time the allegations surfaced against him he had just been selected by his colleagues as board president, and with the election of Michael Taylor and Crowther, it signaled a shift in direction for the district. He said the allegations are politically motivated by former staff trying to retain their jobs.

As to Clifford Young’s alleged misappropriation of public funds, the Public Integrity Unit at the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office looked into that, finding that Young was improperly reimbursed $1,378 by the district for travel expenses to Washington, D.C., for an event that was canceled. He also was reimbursed $538 by the district for his personal LinkedIn account.

Young admitted the payments were inappropriate and repaid the district in full. The district attorney subsequently closed the case without filing any criminal charges, according to an Oct. 18, 2018, letter to Young’s then attorney, Bradley Neufeld, from Deputy District Attorney Carlo DiCesare.

DiCesare, however, noted in his letter that the investigation found issues with the water district’s internal controls.

“We alert you to that and request that you remind your client and (West Valley Water District) staff of their obligations to scrupulously safeguard public funds,” DiCesare said in the letter.

Source link

Leave A Comment