War of words continue as water rhetoric heats up

The battle between Claremont and Golden State Water has trickled into unchartered territory as Claremont City Manager Tony Ramos and Rodney Smith, president of Stratecon Inc., campaign to discredit one another through a series of mailers.

It started on May 20 in a letter to Mr. Ramos where Mr. Smith, the author of an economic study that sought to outline costs associated with the city’s purchase of the water company, requested that Mr. Ramos retract statements made in his April 25 mailer to residents. In the April 25 mailer, Mr. Ramos questioned the objectivity of Mr. Smith’s study, noting that the economic study “was commissioned and paid for by Golden State, and thus it says exactly what the for-profit company wants it to say.”

Mr. Smith took offense to the suggestion and in a letter to Mr. Ramos asserted there was “no basis for your statement attacking the credibility of my work.”

Mr. Smith continued to go on the offensive. “Your statement claiming the study was controlled by Golden State provides a troubling insight into your own value system. The city, undoubtedly, has invested taxpayer dollars for consultants to provide reports on many different issues. Does the city really tell its consultants that their reports must say exactly what the city wants it to say? If so, that would be unethical.”

A May 24 deadline was given for the city to respond to the request for retraction of its “irresponsible and inflammatory statement,” Mr. Smith wrote to Mr. Ramos.

On behalf of the city of Claremont, Kendall H. MacVey of Best, Best & Krieger responded in writing to Mr. Smith on May 24.

“The April 25 letter simply notes what you have acknowledged,” Mr. MacVey wrote. “That the report provided to the public by Golden State Water Company was a report paid for by Golden State Water Company. The letter does not accuse you of unethical behavior.”

Mr. MacVey references an op-ed piece—authored by Mr. Smith and published in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin—where Mr. Smith emphasizes what he sought to prove in his economic study: A city takeover of the water company “will have negative consequences for residents for generations to come.”

The city stands by Mr. Ramos’s assessment, Mr. MacVey said, and does not feel that his remarks warrant a retraction. Mr. MacVey also notes that Mr. Smith seems “to be acting as an advocate for one side of the public discussion.”

The volley continued on June 10 with the submittal of another letter to Mr. Ramos from Mr. Smith. “Mr. MacVey’s meager attempts to change the subject are not at all satisfactory. His response is nonsense.”

The letter includes a public records request asking for “all written work product of any and all city consultants you reviewed in reaching your conclusion that Stratecon’s study ‘says exactly what the for-profit company wants it to say.’”

A total of 6 requests for documents are listed, each relating to meetings, correspondence, emails, letters and work product, which support Mr. Ramos’s suggestion that the study “says exactly what the for-profit company wants it to say.”

Mr. Smith says he intends to take all necessary steps to protect his reputation.

“Stratecon will pursue a resolution to its satisfaction, either by a written formal retraction by the city or by the legal mechanisms available to hold officials accountable for their actions,” Mr. Smith said.

As far as the public records request, Mr. Ramos says the city will respond “appropriately and under the guidelines of the law.”

—Kathryn Dunn



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