The North Coast County Water District board of directors has already met in closed session at least twice to discuss what to do about the employment status of General Manager David Stevens, and they're going to meet again tomorrow, Thursday, June 5, once again in an attempt to make a decision.
Stevens, who has been on paid administrative leave for the past two months, is facing 11 felony charges and one misdemeanor charge filed by the San Mateo County District Attorney. He is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing in Redwood City on Monday, June 9. A trial date could be set after the hearing, which Assistant District Attorney Peter Lynch thinks could last as long as six days. Lynch is the prosecuting attorney on the case.
Former Pacifica City Manager Karl Baldwin has been the acting general manager at the water district while Stevens has been on leave. During a closed session last week, his contract with the district was extended through June 5, as was Stevens' arrangement.
The topic of tomorrow's closed session is, once again, "public employee discipline/dismissal/release; employment status" as it relates to Stevens.
The district board is struggling to decide whether to continue the "leave of absence" policy or terminate Stevens' employment with the district.
Although there has been little discussion of the closed session meetings to this point, speculation has surfaced that the board is negotiating an early retirement package with Stevens, who has served the district for more than two decades.
"There was nothing spectacular to report (from the May 30 closed session)," said Baldwin. "The board directed counsel to make further contact with Mr. Stevens' attorney. They also did announce that they were extending Mr. Stevens' administrative leave and extending my contract to June 5."
Stevens has maintained throughout the District Attorney's investigation last year and after charges were actually filed in December that he has been the victim of a personal vendetta by members of the water board and the press.
Board member Tom Piccolotti, who helped initiate the DA's investigation last year, was subsequently sued by Chuck Gust. That civil lawsuit alleges that Piccolotti trespassed on Gust's property and slandered the Gust name.
Piccolotti has said he spotted NCCWD property on Gust's Pescadero ranch and took pictures of it, creating evidence for the DA to investigate. Several of the charges against Stevens involve the alleged misappropriation of NCCWD property, specifically, water meter housing boxes.
Piccolotti sought payment of his legal defenses against the Gust case from the NCCWD legal insurance carrier, which was approved. Stevens then asked for the same privilege, although that request has not been publicly answered yet.
The board will also discuss extending Baldwin's interim contract at Thursday's meeting.
- Chris Hunter