Allegation Derails BCWA Election

Bristol blogger and BCWA watchdog says in a comment to her blog in Patch that certain 'irregularities' surround Allan Klepper of Barrington, who would have been nominated for water authority board chairman.

The board of the Bristol County Water Authority postponed its election of officers Wednesday evening because of an accusation of possible “irregularities” 17 years ago by a Barrington member who was to be nominated for chairman.

The Barrington board member who is at the heart of the accusation is Allan Klepper. The charge involves an eminent domain taking of land owned by a former water authority board member who allegedly benefited financially from the taking in 1996.

Klepper reportedly was aware of and signed off on the land taking when he was secretary of the board. He is not being accused of a crime or of breaking the law. He is being charged with not doing the due diligence necessary as a board member at that time.

The accusation was made by Marina Peterson of Bristol, a frequent BCWA critic who heads the East Bay Patriots organization. She made the accusation in a comment she posted to a on Tuesday afternoon.

Here is Peterson’s comment to : 

“The possible nomination of Allan Klepper as Chairman of BCWA should not move forward due to the appearance of prior irregularities during his prior term as BCWA Secretary.

During the mid 1990's, an eminent domain land taking was signed off by Mr. Klepper in his capacity as BCWA Secretary on behalf of a company owned by a prior BCWA Board member. The details of this land taking show that the property was flipped by the ex-board member via a company owned by this ex board member resulting in a substantial financial gain.

It has been alleged that at the time, Mr. Klepper was sufficiently aware of the background details to have questioned this transaction.

This may represent an ethics violation that may still be investigated under the Bristol County Water Supply Act.

The record of this event, and the possible investigation that could occur under the Act, appears to question the viability of Mr. Klepper's candidacy as Chairman of the BCWA Board.”

Klepper said he learned of the allegation in a letter from Peterson that was forwarded to him by Barrington member Robert Allio, one of the members of the board to receive her letter.

Klepper’s response to the allegation was vitriolic even as he said he has no idea what Peterson is accusing him of. But he said this allegation "questions my “integrity” and borders on libel or slander.

“I don’t know what I’m accused of,” said Klepper. “But she’s questioning my integrity. I would like to get to the bottom of this.”

“Bring it on,” said Klepper. “Let’s go to the Ethics Commission tomorrow.”

BCWA attorney Sandra Mack said Peterson has been asked already by BCWA Executive Director Pamela Marchand to “bring in whatever evidence she has” to back up her claim.

“I really don’t know what she is accusing Allan of,” said Mack, who explained that as secretary, Klepper would have routinely signed off numerous documents, including minutes of meetings he might not even have attended.

Peterson, who sat in the back of the Council Chamber in the Barrington Town Hall, did not respond at the meeting. After the meeting, though, she said: “I heard for the first time tonight that I have been contacted to bring in evidence.”

“Maybe I’ll get a letter tomorrow or next week,” Peterson said, “but this is the first I’ve heard of it. Why would they tell you that?"

Peterson said anyone who wants to take the time can go the Warren Town Hall to get her so-called evidence about the land transaction.

“It’s all public record,” she said. “It shows the transfer.”

Another comment to by garymm appears to detail this transaction. It says:

“There were two properties involved in this transaction, one being on the Kickemuit, and one not on the Kickemuit. There was one owner of both lots.

That owner applied for a subdivision to the Town of Warren on the lot not on the water. The record shows that the Town of Warren let it go through without Warren Planning Board approval (that is in the record).

On January 31, at 1:11 in the afternoon, the subdivision was filed with the town of Warren by the original owners. According to the continuing records, one minute later, the land containing the subdivision (i.e. the land not on the Kickemuit) was purchased by a former BCWA Board member via his company.

Within a month, the BCWA Board voted to take this subdivision and the other lot on the water via eminent domain under the Bristol County Water Supply Act. Mr. Klepper in his capacity as secretary signed off.

Six months later, a bill for the first piece of property being the subdivision land was submitted to the RI Water Resources Board for payment, but marked up by around $90K from the purchase price in January.”

Mack said she advised the board not to proceed with the Wednesday's election “because I felt the board was in an unfair position without sufficient information.”

“It is also unfair to Allan to have this hanging out there without evidence that could lead to a conclusion,” she said.

Board chairman John Jannitto, who has attacked and been attacked by Peterson before, lashed out at the accusation as “backroom politics.” He also slammed the Patch for running , which actually dealt only with the nomination process for board chairman.

“I am not saying he broke the law,” said Peterson of Klepper. “But in his fiduciary role, it was his burden to find out what was going on, to vet things. He did not give this as much due diligence as was needed. He didn’t show good judgment.”

For that reason, Peterson said, she brought up the 1996 land taking.

Klepper’s election also would simply overlook the need for continued change, “new eyes, new people” in charge of the water authority, she said.

“Why old school when the water authority is supposed to be taking on a new face, a new persona?” she said. “You can’t put in a chairman who was there with all the questionable things going on.”

Gary Morse May 31, 2012 at 04:43 AM
There seems to be a lot of posturing. The fact is that BCWA and the RI Water Resources Board share responsibility in this mess. Since 1993, there has never been an audit of taxpayer spending under the Bristol County Water Supply Act, nor was there an audit of the $5 mil cost overrun of the East Bay pipeline. Is the point being made by BCWA that there will never be an audit unless Ms. Peterson does it herself? In 2010, Operation Clean Government and the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition requested that an audit of BCWA spending under the Act be completed since there was no record of any audit ever being completed. That request was not acted upon by the RIWRB or BCWA. Then the Tri Town Council decided in 2011 to do it's own audit, but put BCWA's own attorney, Sandra Mack, in charge of writing the RFP. By the time the RFP was completed, all the financial requirements were pulled out at BCWA's insistence. Another request was submitted to the RI Water Resources Board to at least do a legal audit of the Act. A vote in favor was taken in March April 2011 at the WRB, but the audit died on the vine and was never completed. I hope the new BCWA board members can see through all this loud protesting. The same people also seem to be protesting the loudest against finally doing a real audit. Transparency at BCWA is still suffering.
Jack Baillargeron May 31, 2012 at 07:07 AM
Sadly correct Gary, yet again the BCWA does not get it. The old guard or what ever anyone wants to call it, is!!!!! the perception of ineptness and backroom deals. This is something that cannot exist in a government entity period. It is also the reason in my opinion, there has been so much secrecy involved in the BCWA for so long, and why a "forensic audit" from the start was demanded, to get to the bottom of anything and everthing that happened, to explain why the bond is as low as it can go with out being in default, and the principle has changed so little after almost 2 decades. Never are there actual numbers of spending and itemized as in any budget that are available to the public. This is unbelievable, that the councils still allow this to go on after so many years of demands from the public to open this BCWA to the light of day.
Jack Baillargeron May 31, 2012 at 07:29 AM
This is a joke right? "Board chairman John Jannitto, who has attacked and been attacked by Peterson before, lashed out at the accusation as “backroom politics.” He also slammed the Patch for running Peterson’s blog, which actually dealt only with the nomination process for board chairman." Despicable display there Jannitto, have you not heard of free speech? You going to get lawyers, paid for by the BCWA to stop freedom of speech, are you seriously blaming a media outlet, for allowing free speech. In case you are not aware, the "Patch" is owned by the AOL, and subsidiary Huffington Post. The local patches are run by local people, and the TOS are clear. Your old and antiquated idea's of silencing that which you do not like seeing the light of day is, proof positive of why you should resign from the board. The people are fed up with these of antics like yours. Everyone is to blame but you and your Board. Clean house was the order of the day, and sadly the councils did not. As for your “backroom politics” snip, it is laughable coming from an appointed bureaucrat, such as yourself. We the people do not do backroom politics, we hire and fire politicians, who don't do the peoples work. At least a few other board members had the decency to see that their continued; presence was detrimental to the BCWA. Like there is no such thing as to big to fail, there is no such thing as a board member being too indispensable to resign.
Gary Morse May 31, 2012 at 10:41 AM
An audit going back to 1993 is a doable initiative since the RHODE ISLAND WATER FACILITIES PROGRAM ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE states on page 16, Section 2.19: "All records shall be retained by the grantee and available to the Board for a minimum of three years after issuance of the final grant award payment”. Since BCWA's attorney claims the Act is still in "full force and effect", then all the records back to 1993 must still be available for audit. But BCWA's claim (by the legacy directors, not the new), is that they want Ms Peterson to do the audit for them. The new directors must clean up this mess left over by two decades of cronyism at BCWA and call for at least one independent audit of spending under the Act to clear the air once and for all. Voting in Mr Klepper as Chairman will ensure that initiative will NEVER be done. He is not the right person for the job as Chairman.
Manifold Witness May 31, 2012 at 11:13 AM
A new BCWA play opened last night to mixed reviews. The working title, “Smokescreen of Fear” will probably need to be changed to something more accurate like, “The Agenda Didn’t Say ’Nominations’”. Definitive reviews will be out with next month’s agenda. Who is responsible for the agenda? Who didn’t give legal advice about the agenda? How many times does any given agenda have to be revised over there at the BCWA, anyway? Mrs. Mack knows the deal – she's not exactly objective. She was involved. Her name is on documents. Mrs. Mack picks & chooses what she threatens to investigate. Mrs. Mack doesn’t seem to want to investigate where all the money has gone all these years. Mr. Klepper shouldn’t be Chairman – for a lot of reasons, including that he’s “vitriolic” and he rants on ratepayers. Let’s be honest, Mr. Klepper. Jannitto, Klepper, Mack & Marchand are a distraction. At best.
marina peterson May 31, 2012 at 12:59 PM
It was an interesting meeting.
Antonio A Teixeira May 31, 2012 at 01:10 PM
I believe that much good is happening with BCWA and there is much more to come but there is a need to clear the air. I ask from the "old guard" that is the re-appointed Board Members to step forward work with the new appointed members and clear the cloud over BCWA. A much needed forensic audit back to 1993 is needed, I am sure that "institutional knowledge" should be able to recall and assist. That portion should have been done as part of the last audit. Unfortunately, that was a new item for me and I was not aware of the importance of much more completed audit.
Bristol County Anonymous May 31, 2012 at 01:37 PM
More expensive spin from Mack. Mack doesn’t always tell the truth. This goes beyond certain limited RI statutes about things like direct financial gains by some. There are common law fiduciary & ethical duties. Right vs. wrong. Some RI lawyers may actually advise politicians who have violated common law fiduciary duties not involving a direct financial gain, to run to the Ethics Commission for a ruling that the RI statute was not violated. The ruling is used to fool the public–as if there were NO violations of anything. This ignores things like common law fiduciary duties. Directors (as fiduciaries) have common law fiduciary duties to act in the best interest of the public & not to engage in other improper conduct such as misapplying assets. So “bring it on”. Objectively Investigate Klepper & Jannitto. See if each performed his duties in compliance with the common law. “Fiduciaries owe two main duties to their clients: a duty of loyalty and a duty of care. The duty of loyalty requires that fiduciaries act solely in the interest of their clients, rather than in their own interest. Thus fiduciaries must not derive any direct or indirect profit from their position, and must avoid potential conflicts of interest. The duty of care requires that fiduciaries perform their functions with a high level of competence and thoroughness, in accordance with industry standards”. http://definitions.uslegal.com/f/fiduciary-duty/
Jack Baillargeron May 31, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Part 1 Sadly Mr. Tiexeira, it is hard for the public to believe anything will ever be done, as the old guard is also on the town councils, protecting this BCWA from having a full and open forensic audit. As someone who has been complaining and getting the run around on BCWA issues for going on 20 years now, I have little to no faith in anything ever being accomplished when it comes to the BCWA. The State, legislators, does nothing to address the fears, and they are quite aware of it. Many of the local councilors, seem to think in my opinion, that it can either can do no wrong, feel words they are “doing due diligence” will placate the people, ask for an very watered audit that is set up by the very BCWA it is suppose to audit, and then to top it off, try and make the company that did the audit, look like the bad guy. Not to mention the AG who did find many things wrong and yes violations in the charges brought by the Blacks and others, on open meetings. What was done there? Praise from some council members in this area that the BCWA was not fined and a twist to make it appear as though the public was guilty, not the BCWA. Willfully negligence in the open meeting law is next to impossible to prove, for a reason, (you need an investigator in the organization, recording things). That is why you see no fines, but it does not negate the actions done by the old guard, still there.
Jack Baillargeron May 31, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Part 2 What you have here are new members on the board, with past members who have not changed a single thing in how they do business. You have the same legal council, who was involved in actually thinking of suing citizens along with Mr. Jannitto for speaking out and doing a something, that in this country, they had every right to do. That is too turn over to the AG, what they believed to be violations of the law. Have we now become a locality that has councilors and State representatives who thing the calling of police, should be illegal when you see a possible crime that you believe should be investigated? I am so sick and tired of how these three towns are turning out on this issue. Though it is not every councilor, nor is it every current Board member. But as long as the old guard, who caused all this, does not have the common decency, character and integrity to resign, and quit whining about it being the ratepayers and the publics fault for the BCWA problem, nothing has been accomplished at all, nor will it ever change. It does not take a genius to know that, when there are pension, Bond, problems, contract, union contract, communication, transparency, secrecy, current projects, and on and on problems, to see that an all out investigation is in order, be it audit, the AG or Justice Department. The perception that there is political protection to the BCWA, seems obvious in my opinion. Nothing goes hidden for this many years, with out that.
Gary Morse May 31, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Councilor Teixeira, As always, your rate payer support is appreciated. As Ms Peterson has pointed out, this is not an issue over Director Klepper breaking any laws. What is at issue is his duty as a prior BCWA trustee which the US Supreme Court has held to be the highest legal standard under our laws. Mr. Klepper appears to want to take refuge under a "who could have known" defense. But the duties of a trustee are based upon what the trustee should have known at the time. That is the issue on the table right now, Mr. Klepper's judgement in his prior role as BCWA Secretary.
Jack Baillargeron May 31, 2012 at 02:28 PM
When considering the highest position on the board, it is obvious; you want the best you can glean from the board. The judgment of the nominee is paramount to that position. The past problem were caused in many instances by bad judgments, the paying of money to the Union for outings, extravagant parties at restaurants for awards, at a time of fiscal straights with double digit rate increases, and a Union contract, that not only gave away the kitchen sink, due to future obligations that cannot be changed, but even built a new kitchen. These are the same people who caused and or supported these actions. I remember the meetings, many times when these individuals and others would say, “well that’s how it has always been done”. That is pure BS. We always had slavery at one time, we always denied women to vote at one time, and we always had a king at one time, but guess what, people stood up and said no more and corrected it, not go with the flow. This again is another reason to investigate the BCWA. Where is it written that the councils cannot remove appointee’s? There has been enough evidence that is indisputable in my opinion to remove many of them over the years, not the least of which is plain ignorance of who they work for. Their undying support of Delise, right or wrong, was so blatantly obvious at every meeting I attended, was reason enough to dump some of them. The board over sees the management, not the other way around.
Gary Morse May 31, 2012 at 03:46 PM
It's unclear why BCWA's attorney Sandra Mack is looking to Ms. Peterson for the documents in question. It's my understanding that this 1996 transaction was legally orchestrated by Sandra Mack herself. Can't the BCWA board simply turn to Ms Mack and ask "show what you have". Is there a possibility that this is all a delay tactic allowing Ms Mack time to get her story straight and find out exactly how much Ms Peterson knows. I hope not.
Gary Morse May 31, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Perhaps a small token of good will might be offered by the BCWA board to complete an independent audit of this one eminent domain taking based on the full record. The records are required to be intact since the land taking was done while BCWA was under the requirements of the Bristol County Water Supply Act. An independent audit would be a step in the right direction to clear up this matter for all the parties.
Bristol County Anonymous May 31, 2012 at 06:15 PM
“We took the wells off line for the hell of it!” That's Allan Klepper responding to questions at a Barrington Town Council meeting. I hope that the other BCWA directors find this kind of behavior unacceptable with regard to the person that they nominate for the new BCWA Chairman. From the “What we said in 2011” Barrington Times article. “We took the wells off line for the hell of it!” said Allan Klepper, a member of the Bristol County Water Authority board of directors, during a heated discussion with the Barrington Town Council and residents when asked why the Nayatt wells were no longer in use. The tri-town council later ordered a performance audit of the water authority that identified management problems http://www.eastbayri.com/news/2011/dec/29/what-we-said-2011/
Manifold Witness May 31, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Maybe instead of being vitriolic with his “bring it on”, and squawking about almost-slander-and-bordering-on-libel, and instead of paying Mrs. Mack more money, Mr. Klepper would kindly explain his role in the land deal. What he knew. What he didn’t know. How the deal went down. Who did what and when they did it. Friendly chat. And like that. Then the readers can see how that fits with the documents and with what all the others who were part of the “institution” will remember using their valuable “institutional knowledge”. Mr. Klepper, Mr. Jannitto & Mrs. Mack have been almost- suing & bordering-on-threatening legal action for too long now. No one has to tell Mack & Klepper that going to the ethics commission will not address the issues. Why not do some nice, inexpensive, “discovery” in public, Mr. Klepper. Because it’s beginning to look like Mrs. Mack and a few others over there at the BCWA are still just trying to scare the public and now the press into silence.
marina peterson June 01, 2012 at 12:41 AM
To set the record straight, everything that I have looked at is a public record and involves BCWA activities carried out in 1995/96 by Sandra Mack. She has all of the records and it is incumbent on her to provide these records to the board.
Gary Morse June 01, 2012 at 11:52 AM
I'm hoping that the Barrington Town Council is finally getting this. While the US Supreme Court holds that the duties of a fiduciary are the highest under our laws, BCWA routinely dumbs them down out of convenience. Ms Mack claims that Mr. Klepper in his role as BCWA Secretary "would have routinely signed off numerous documents, including minutes of meetings he might not even have attended." Rate payers are fed up with the BCWA board doing things "routinely". This predilection for routine is exactly why Mr Klepper should not be put in the position of Chairman. Why not a new board member? Institutional knowledge has nothing to do with running the board, and at this point, it appears to be a negative.
Manifold Witness June 01, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Mack's excuse for Klepper in a nutshell: "Mack... explained that as secretary, Klepper would have routinely signed off numerous documents, including minutes of meetings he might not even have attended.” Ah. Oh. Ah Ha! And, so, are we now to believe that the "numerous documents" that "Klepper would have routinely signed off" include the documents Klepper signed (along with Mack) related to the land transfer? The bylaws specify which corporate officer(s) sign such documents. And Klepper has fiduciary duties. Individual. Can't be delegated or waived - even by "routine". Mack & Klepper... trying to scare Marina. Again. And Mack gets paid for this. It's high time to face the fact that the "old guard" (with the "institutional knowledge") continues to be a problem over there at the BCWA.
Manifold Witness June 01, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Admission of breach of fiduciary duties? "Mack... explained that as secretary, Klepper would have routinely signed off numerous documents, including minutes of meetings he might not even have attended.” “Bring it on”? You don’t have to scream it at us twice, Mr. Klepper.
Gary Morse June 02, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Some of BCWA's current board members appear confused. They claim that since BCWA gets an annual audit of their operations, that also covers the taxpayer spending under the Bristol County Water Supply Act. It doesn't. There is no record of taxpayer spending under the Act ever being audited. None exist at the State Auditor Generals Office, at the RI Water Resources Board, at the RI State Budget Office, or at BCWA from their own auditor. This has been checked. If they insist that all matters have been audited, could someone please produce the audit of the $5 million cost overrun from the 1998 East Bay pipeline debacle that rate payers are still paying off today? They can't produce it because it was never done. This is one of the reasons Mr Klepper, who is a legacy board member, should not be appointed Chairman. It is likely he would stand in the way of such an audit just as Chairman Jannitto has stood in the way.
Gary Morse June 03, 2012 at 03:21 PM
On Jan 25, 2011, Operation Clean Government gave a presentation on BCWA problems during the last two decades. The lead picture in this presentation was of a cow standing on a 10 ft high pile of manure approximately 200 ft from the Kickemuit River, and approximately 700 ft from the water intake pipe of BCWA's water treatment plant. The picture was taken in 2011. While BCWA had been taking land from property that posed little risk, BCWA left this horrific offender in place. The reason's have never been explained. For two decades, Mr Klepper has been one of the chief architects of these absurd policies and now asks to become Chairman. This is what is at stake in this debate, two decades of misguided direction that needs to end.


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