The Metropolitan Water District’s embattled ethics watchdog has announced her resignation amid a monthslong internal struggle over her office and its investigations, it was reported Wednesday.
Ethics officer Deena Ghaly informed the MWD of her decision hours before the agency’s 38-member board was scheduled to evaluate her performance Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported. Ghaly, whose office is the subject of an ongoing outside review, said it had become “impossible” for her to carry out her duties of creating, administering and enforcing ethics rules.
“There are concerns at the board level, as I understand them, about whether the ethics office should proceed with the work that it does,” she said, according to The Times. “And yet, I report to the board. So … there was no way to reconcile the law with the responses about my work from at least some of the board members.”
The board weighed in hours later, putting Ghaly on paid administrative leave until Oct. 10, her last day on the job. MWD spokesman Bob Muir said no reason was given for the decision, which was discussed during a closed session meeting, The Times reported.
Tuesday’s developments alarmed board member Sylvia Ballin, who argued that her MWD colleagues had failed to give the ethics office the tools to operate independently. Before the board went behind closed doors, Ballin questioned whether Ghaly was the subject of a “witch hunt,” according to The Times.
Ghaly’s critics said her office had been “running amok” for months.
“She abused her authority,” attorney James Sutton, who represented three people investigated by the ethics office, said in comments reported by The Times.
The debate over Ghaly’s office reflected, in part, the longstanding divide between the MWD’s representatives from San Diego and many other board members, The Times reported. Some within the San Diego delegation were among the most forceful in questioning the MWD’s recent decision to hire Alejandro Mayorkas, a former U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, to review Ghaly’s office.
Mayorkas, hired at nearly $1,100 an hour, plans to examine issues stemming from at least two MWD ethics investigations.
—City News Service
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