Statement by Steve Smith

Jim Nelson, Teri Nigretto, Mike Cleveland, and Leith Templin make up the majority of the seven-member EWUA Board. We refer to them as the “Dominant Board Faction.” 

We are asking you to remove the Dominant Board Faction by recalling them. This is an abbreviated list of why we think they must be removed from the Board.

  1. Two different Treasurers have had their access to the financial records blocked. 
  2. Board failures have permitted the General Manager (GM) to make unauthorized self-payments. Instead of recovering the lost money, the GM’s attorney fees were paid, three directors were removed from the Board or their officer position, and the GM’s total compensation was increased to approximately $200,000. This is about double his starting salary in 2021.
  3. In January 2024, Jim Nelson, Teri Nigretto, and Mike Cleveland prohibited new Director Jim Cook from voting until Leith Templin could be appointed to the Board. 
  4. Anderson served as EWUA Secretary/Treasurer from January to March of 2024. The minutes she took of the meetings have been rejected by the Dominant Board Faction and replaced with minutes taken by a staff member. 
  5. The Dominant Board Faction repeatedly took important actions in closed session. 

Some of the Directors who oversee EWUA have sacrificed their integrity and reputations and, I believe, have failed in their fiduciary duty to the Members. 

You are being asked to recall the Dominant Board Faction by a broad coalition who refer to themselves as the Concerned Eastsound Water Users. This group includes:

Three current directors of the EWUA board:

  • Carol Anderson
  • Ron Claus
  • Jim Cook

Three former directors of the EWUA board;

  • Tenar Hall
  • Fred Klein
  • Steve Smith

We are joined by a group of concerned members of the Association. These include Fred Klein, Robert Austin, and Michael Riordan who were formerly  critical of the initial recall effort launched in August of 2023 by Hall and Smith. To their credit, Klein, Austin, and Riordan took it upon themselves to research the issues, interview people, collect documents, and evidence. These three assumed that the members of the Dominant Board Faction were innocent and being accused by disgruntled individuals. 

However, after extensive research, Klein, Austin, and Riordan add their names to those who are calling for the recall of Nelson, Nigretto, Cleveland, and Templin. This is even more remarkable, as Nigretto was recruited and recommended by Fred Klein. 

Unfortunately, Nigretto has joined those who prohibited the Treasurers from being able to fulfill their fiduciary responsibility to review the records of the Association, and Nigretto participated in the stacking of the Board to include Templin by blocking Cook from voting.

I want to make it clear that our complaint is not against the field staff of Eastsound Water. Of the few field staff I have interacted with, and from everything that I know about their work, they are excellent, highly valued employees who provide critical services for our community. We have no complaints with the field staff and greatly appreciate and respect their work.

Rather, our complaint is specifically with the Dominant Board Faction that is not only failing to do its fiduciary duty but is also actively prohibiting others from doing so. They are spending large sums of the Members’ money on legal fees. The legal costs are related to refusing to allow anyone access to the financial records and defending a botched election that allowed them to stack the Board, which allows them to continue to block access to the records.

The source of the money to pay these costs will come from our water rates. 

Rather than allow the Directors to see the records of the Association, varying members of the Dominant Board Faction have done their best to demonize and publicly vilify Tenar Hall and Steve Smith.  Both the 2023 and the 2024 Dominant Board Factions have published and circulated false statements about Hall and Smith. This defamation of Hall and Smith exposes the entire Association and the rate payers to significant financial liability. However, rather than bring suit against the Dominant Board Faction, we are asking you to recall the Directors who have continued to spend hundreds of dollars on legal and accounting fees and have paid the General Manager’s legal costs, while also doubling the General Manager’s compensation to about $200,000 a year. 

There is a culture of bullying that didn’t stop with removing Hall and Smith, but also extended to other Board directors, staff, and Members of the community to the present day. People’s livelihoods were threatened and children called. Anyone that the good ol’boys saw as a threat have been belittled and intimidated.  

Eventually, Nelson, Nigretto, Cleveland, and Templin will be removed by the Members. This can happen via a recall or an election process. The sooner they are off the Board, the sooner the money losses can be stopped.  The most effective and immediate way to make that happen is to participate in the recall, since the alternative would take several election cycles.

After the Dominant Board Faction is gone, a forensic investigation needs to take place that will look at the financial interactions of the Board with the Association. Why are Nelson and Nigretto willing to sacrifice their integrity and reputation? Nelson has been on and off the Board for 25+ years. Why is no one allowed to look at the books?

Please follow the example of Klein, Austin, and Riordan and join hands with the current and former Directors in signing the petition and proxy forms that will allow us to remove some dirty water and stop the financial losses.