San Diego

Major Shake-Up at San Diego's Water Department

The city of San Diego announced today a major overhaul of its troubled water department, including the departures of five top directors and managers.

The city of San Diego announced today a major overhaul of its troubled water department, including the departures of five top directors and managers. 

These changes come after a year of public outcry over billing concerns and accusations of mismanagement. The Public Utilities Department has also been accused of lacking transparency and providing inaccurate information to the public. 

Those changes include new management to oversee the customer service division and a restructuring of the division that oversees water meter reading and the city’s smart meter or advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) program. 

In addition, the department’s Assistant Director Stan Griffith, Deputy Directors Lee Ann Jones-Santos and Susan Lanier, Program Managers Beth Murray and Brent Eidson are no longer working for the city, a city spokesperson confirmed. 

Public Utilities Department Assistant Director Lee Ann Jones-Santos, Director Vic Bianes, and Assistant Director Stan Griffith no longer work for the city. In this photo, the Directors spoke at a San Diego Audit Committee in March 2018 about billing complaints.

San Diego’s Chief Operating Officer Kris Michell delivered the news to city councilmembers on Wednesday. The memo laid out both management structure and personnel changes that will be made this April as a result of an internal review. 

To read the memo, click here. 

That internal review started last summer after NBC 7 Responds and media partner Voice of San Diego discovered the department had failed to release accurate information about its smart water meter program. 

Among the issues, the department told NBC 7 Responds they had never “retrofitted” its water meters. That was shown to be false when NBC 7 found a Pacific Beach woman’s water meter had mismatched or retrofitted parts, leading to her being charged for five-times the amount of water she used. 

Records also show managers in the department were made aware of a “glitch” with some of the new meters as early as 2016 but did little to fix the problem. 

After that discovery and others, Stacy LoMedico told NBC 7 Responds the Mayor’s office launched an internal review of the department’s management.  

On Wednesday, Michell said the review found the Public Utilities Department’s management had not provided appropriate oversight and accountability. 

“The mayor has directed that all necessary actions be taken to restore confidence in [the Public Utilities Department,] and we firmly believe the changes described will make real progress toward that goal,” Mitchell writes in the memo. 

Last year, Director Vic Bianes resigned and Deputy Director Michael Vogl retired as questions swirled over how the department had reacted to billing complaints. 

NBC 7 Responds has investigated the city’s Public Utilities Department for more than a year and has uncovered evidence of problems with the city’s smart meter program, including mismatched meters, program glitches, as well as customer service issues. 

The findings were highlighted in a 30-minute special titled “Flood of Distrust,” to watch the special click here or watch part one below.

Part I of Flood of Distrust, an NBC 7 Responds Special.
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