West Basin Water Official Accused of Misusing Taxpayer Money

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Ronald C. Smith

A board member with the West Basin Municipal Water District (WBMWD) was arrested last week for allegedly misusing public funds.

Board member Ronald C. Smith is facing seven criminal counts, including two counts alleging misuse of public funds, one count for allegedly having a “financial interest in a contract entered into by his agency” and four counts for allegedly filing false affidavits.

Smith has pleaded “not guilty” to all charges and his next court date, a preliminary hearing, is set for Aug. 12. A spokesperson for the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office told the Daily Breeze that the charges pertain to approximately $20,000 in taxpayer funds, including at least $8,000 that went to an unnamed nonprofit organization that Smith may have been involved with.

Malibu is one of several Los Angeles-area cities that buys wholesale water from the WBMWD, which provides water and recycled wastewater in its 185-square-mile service area.

Smith has served on the board since 2006 as a representative for the South Bay cities of Ranchos Palos Verdes, Carson, Rolling Hills Estates, Palos Verdes Estates and part of San Pedro.

In a statement released to the media, West Basin officials tried to distance themselves from Smith and said his situation should have no bearing on WBMWD’s ongoing operations.

“West Basin wants our communities and stakeholders to know that this situation will not impact our commitment to transparency and sound financial and resource management of public funds,” said Board Vice President Gloria Gray.