S. E. Williams | Executive Editor
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you . . .”
– Rudyard Kipling
Though Clarence Mansell may well have known at the time of his appointment in June 2018, the West Valley Water District (WVWD) was dysfunctional and in crisis, I question whether in his wildest dreams he could have guessed the chaos at the agency, predicted the soon to come revelations of just how unseemly things were, nor imagined how all these ills would soon be laid at his feet.
I’m sure he never imagined himself as a scapegoat, a fall guy, the face of what was wrong with the West Valley Water District—but that is exactly who he was made out to be.
The laundry list of concerns involving the agency’s leadership were damning and stark—misfeasance, nonfeasance, malfeasance—and the board was intent on not only absolving itself of accountability, but also reestablishing credibility with its ratepayers.
Certainly, under the leadership of current board president Channing Hawkins, the WVWD appears to be moving forward in a more purposeful and transparent direction. Yet misdeeds of the past remain unreconciled and may never be resolved despite Mansell’s departure, because he was not the lead player in this drama.
Mansell’s exit does not remove the bully from the room. In other words, the source of much of the agency’s ills—former president and current board member Clifford Young—remains in office.
When the settlement agreement between Mansell and WVWD was made public, an unconscionable hit piece in the San Bernardino Sun tied Mansell directly to the agency’s scandal ridden history even though much of WVWD’s recent failures occurred before Mansell joined the organization. It was also no surprise Clifford Young’s enabling protégé, Greg Young, was quoted in the article allegedly having proclaimed in an email, “Now the district can finally move on from the dark days of Mansell.”
Many who have followed the long years of selected double-crossing, backstabbing and bullying tactics of some board electees have grown accustomed to such less than professional attacks on agency administrators, fellow board members, and others.
So much about what happened during the years Clifford Young served as the board’s president was beyond the professional pale and it is often said a leopard can not change its spots. How long before he turns on another peer, disrespects another administrator, charges the district for his personal office supplies, sponsors another election celebration at ratepayers’ expense, causes the district to incur costs to defend against another wrongful termination lawsuit, seeks to enrich himself at the rate-payers expense through the qui tam process and the list goes on.
Whether Clarence Mansell held some culpability is challenging to discern, but what is well known and documented, is much of the system breakdowns did not happen on his watch. It was as if a thief with a bag of stolen items being chased by the police ran past him and dropped the bag at his feet just as the officers arrive and, assuming the bag is his, arrest and convict him for the theft based on the testimony of eyewitnesses who were protecting their friend, the real thief.
Many believe Mansell is a decent man who was professionally qualified for the positions he held at WVWD. Unfortunately he accepted what appeared to be a great position and it certainly had the potential to be, but he landed in the wrong place . . . at the wrong time . . . with the wrong group of people he considered his peers; and has now paid the ultimate price—the loss of his job and damage to his professional reputation.
Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.
S. E. Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News.