Posted on 25 May 2012.
By John Earl
Surf City Voice
Several months ago this reporter submitted a Public Records Act request to John Schatz, a public official of the Santa Margarita Water District in south Orange County.
Schatz responded in a timely fashion with the requested information, complete with explanatory comments and some strong advice on the ethics of journalism.
Mr. Schatz, who is the seventh highest paid public agency official in California, recently announced that he is retiring soon, but he has been a prolific worker by all accounts.
Not only does he have two seemingly conflicting jobs at SMWD, where he is the legal counselor and general manager, but he also hires out to other water districts as their legal counselor, including a sub agency to a water district that has the president of Cadiz Inc. working as its chief legal counselor.
Schatz’s ability to multitask and collect multiple salaries totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, while his employer denies any conflict of interest, inspired David Nazar of SoCal PBS (KOCE) to nickname him “Superman” in an investigative report last January.
Schatz has also been pushing a controversial plan by SMWD to pay Cadiz Inc. to deliver water from an aquifer in the Cadiz Valley – in the Mohave Desert – to Orange County.
That plan is a revised version of a similar proposal by Cadiz Inc. made to and ultimately rejected by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California a decade ago.
(At that time, this reporter was an organizer for a public interest organization, Public Citizen, which opposed the project. My stint with Public Citizen lasted all but 6-8 months. Since then, I haven’t worked with Public Citizen or any other organization on the Cadiz issue. Nor do I work for any other organization, whatsoever.)
Critics of the revived project, including Sen. Diane Feinstein, claim that the Cadiz aquifer, located under land owned by Cadiz Inc., will be sucked dry by SMWD’s plan and that the desert environment above it will be ruined.
You can see a thorough and objective review of the facts of that project in a another report by Nazar and in a story published in the Voice courtesy of the San Bernardino Sentinel newspaper.
Aside from juggling the huge work load and ethical concerns of multiple water agencies simultaneously, including working under the president of Cadiz Inc., Schatz is also concerned about the ethics of journalism.
At the end of his letter to me, he wrote: Read the full story