Alleged threats and loud profanities have prompted a Marina Coast Water District director to ask that General Manager Jim Heitzman be placed on administrative leave.
In a letter to district board chairman Tom Moore, director Peter Le said he is in fear for his safety due to escalating harassment by Heitzman. The confrontations culminated Friday in an incident reportedly witnessed by Moore in which Heitzman allegedly yelled profanities at them as they left the district parking lot.
Moore has apparently agreed to have the board consider the request. Tuesday's agenda includes a closed-door performance review for Heitzman.
In his letter to Moore, Le said Heitzman began harassing him soon after he was elected in November. Since then, he states, Heitzman has accused Le of sullying his reputation and harming his family.
"I hope the board will place the general manager on administrative leave at the board meeting on Tuesday ... so that Mr. Heitzman can calm down, and at the same time, the board could find out the reasons why he got so angry and hostile toward me," Le wrote.
"I previously felt his harassment and I am now concerned (for) my safety," he said.
It is not the first time allegations of harassment have flown between Heitzman and the board. In 2011, Heitzman accused director Jan Shriner of creating a hostile work environment by asking pointed questions of the staff after she was elected to the board.
The district hired an outside law firm to conduct an investigation.
At the time, Shriner was a progressive minority of one on the five-member board. Since then, longtime director Ken Nishi decided not to seek re-election and Le and Moore were elected to the board, joining Shriner for a majority bloc.
According to Le's letter, Heitzman began demanding private meetings with him without explanation after the election. Le and Moore met with him Nov. 23 and Heitzman accused Le of telling people "he was a crook and a thief." Le denied the accusation.
At the Jan. 8 board meeting, at which Le had a number of items agendized to undo last-minute actions by the outgoing board, Heitzman challenged him to "be a man and tell him straight to his face what I have told other people," said Le, who ignored the demands.
Le said he declined Heitzman's meeting requests, finally telling him he would not meet unless Heitzman explained a purpose. On Jan. 15, Heitzman e-mailed another request, accusing Le of sending threatening e-mails, lying and belittling employees, all of which Le denies.
Then on Friday, Heitzman approached Le and Moore in the parking lot after they left a meeting with the general manager. Heitzman apparently wanted Moore's blessing to send a letter to Cal Am. The district is considering suing Cal Am to recoup $10million it lost in the failed regional desalination project.
When Moore denied permission to send the letter, Le wrote, Heitzman went ballistic, again accusing Le of harming Heitzman's family and asking, "How would I feel if he harms my family?"
Le said he drove away to avoid further confrontation and Heitzman yelled after them, "(expletive) you."
Neither Le, Moore nor Heitzman could be immediately reached for comment Monday.
The closed session is scheduled for 6p.m. Tuesday in the district's board room, 11 Reservation Road, Marina.
Virginia Hennessey can be reached at 753-6751 or email@example.com.