Fraud & Coverup Alleged in Water District
LAS VEGAS (CN) - Las Vegas Valley Water District fired 17 senior employees to cover up illegal spending and misrepresentations of its finances, one of the former workers claims in court.
Lyndalou Bullard sued the water district in Clark County Court, claiming she is one of 17 senior employees that the water district fired on a pretext.
"In truth, they were terminated before they could publicly acknowledge facts they had privately learned to be true," Bullard says in the March 25 complaint.
Bullard, 58, says her job was "architect of the Employee Development Division."
She claims the district misrepresented the cost of operating seven ranches in central and south-central Nevada that the district bought for water rights, the "true cost" of automated water readers that she says never worked as intended and a new, "disastrously overbuilt" building at the Springs Preserve.
"At a time when public distrust is at its highest, 17 or LVVWD's most senior staff were wrongfully terminated just as they began to go public with their concerns about this continuing campaign of egregious misrepresentations and cover-ups," she says in the complaint.
Contrary to the water district's purchasing regulations, Bullard says "management had illegally engaged in purchasing conduct with no competitive bidding process and illegally attempted to cover this up by lying to the public, the ratepayers, the media, and its own management."
Bullard claims the illegal purchasing happened as the water district "is asking the public to reach into their pocket and fund an over $600 million project to complete the second and third 'straws' into Lake Mead, as well as construct pumping stations and facilities."
She says the water district in 2002 paid Datamatic nearly $38 million to install its Firefly automated water meter reader system that was supposed to be "cost-effective."
But she says "this technology never worked" and "was a complete and utter failure."
The Firefly system malfunctioned, resulting in "sudden, one-time incremental increases" in customers' water bills, Bullard says.
Those sudden increases included a $2,700 water bill for one customer and an $840.20 bill for another, KTNV News reported in 2012.
Bullard claims the water district "did not engage in any competitive bidding with third parties" before awarding the Firefly contract to Datamatic and then had to pay $500 each to buy more than 385,000 new 'mart meters from ITRON.
"Instead of brining legal action against Datamatic or going public with the failed technology, LVVWD chose to hide it, at the expense of ratepayers," Bullard claims.
She says that expense alone came to more than $76 million.
From 2006 to 2008 the district paid about $80 million to buy seven ranches for their water rights, Bullard says.
"From the moment the ranches were purchased, said ranches have been unprofitable - contrary to representations by defendants to the board of directors, ratepayers, and the media," she says, echoing claims that the Southern Nevada Water Authority's former comptroller Randall Buie made in a lawsuit on March 6.
Another reason for her termination, Bullard says, was to deny her full retirement benefits. When she turned 60, she would have qualified for early retirement with full benefits as an employee with more than 10 years.
She seeks back pay, front pay, damages and punitive damages for breach of contract, bad faith, age discrimination, retaliation, wrongful discharge and infliction of emotional distress.
She is represented by Matthew Q. Callister.
Las Vegas Valley Water District officials did not return calls seeking comment.