By Miriam Raftery
January 3, 2017 (La Mesa) – Newly elected Helix Water District board member Lu Tejeda has resigned, effective December 30, 2016. In a an e-mail to Board President Joel Scalzitti, Tejeda said new business opportunities could present a conflict of interest.
The remaining board members will address Tejeda’s resignation and next steps to fill the vacancy at a meeting on Wednesday, January 4 at 2 p.m. The agenda will also include consideration of a proposal by new member Dan Gracyk to move board meetings to evenings, as members of the public have long requested.
Options for filling the vacancy could include calling a special election or appointing a replacement to complete the nearly four-year term. A special election would be costly to ratepayers so an appointment seems likely. One potential nominee is Dan McMillan, who trailed Tejeda by only 185 votes, drawing 34.4% of the votes in the four-man race. McMillan, like Tejeda, ran on a platform of reforms including opposing rate hikes. Or the board could invite the public to submit applications, or nominate an alternative choice.
Tejeda, who now works for a construction company that does paving and asphalt, indicated that he resigned to “protect the district and ratepayers”, making his decision as early as possible to assure transparency, said district spokesman Mike Uhrhammer in a letter announcing the news.
Tejeda worked 28 years for the district and had retired last year, winning election to the board in November. He defeated incumbent John Linden to represent District 1, an area north of I-8 in El Cajon that includes the Fletcher Hills and Bostonia neighborhoods.
Tejeda told East County Magazine that a complaint filed by his campaign opponent, Dan McMillan, alleging a residency violation had been “resolved.” Tejeda owns two residences, but is registered to vote and has his driver’s license through the address in the district. A Union-Tribune article elaborates that Tejeda says he showed the District Attorney’s office paperwork that was accepted to resolve the residency dispute, which he denied had any bearing on his decision to resign.
Tejeda was also the target of a smear campaign after an anonymous source leaked confidential personnel files to East County Magazine, which did not publish the contents since the records were disseminated in violation of state employment privacy laws.
In other district news, at its last meeting the new board unanimously adopted a resolution appointing new board President Joel Scalzitti and Vice President Kathleen Coates-Hedberg to serve on the San Diego County Water Authority, replacing DeAna Verbecke and Linden.