Water world: What the e-mail shows | Arkansas Blog

Water world: What the e-mail shows

by

6 comments

There have been comments by Blog readers about how Central Arkansas Water came to be in a position to be held up for a huge sum of money by Jay DeHaven and partners (including Tom Schueck, member of the so-called Pollution Control and Ecology Commission) for sod farm acreage along the main tributary to Lake Maumelle, the city's main water supply.

Jim Harvey, former CAW CEO, has said repeatedly that he wanted to buy the land. His implication, and that of others, was that water commissioners discouraged the purchase. It's complicated as you'll see from a series of e-mails written by Harvey, Commissioner Tom Rimmer and Barry Haas, a watershed activist. These were released at a Commission meeting last week. I asked for them then and received them today. You can read them on the jump.

E-MAILS FROM CENTRAL ARKANSAS WATER

From: Tom Rimmer
To: Jim.Harvey
Sent: Wednesday, July 2, 2008 9:57:56 AM
Subject: Dehaven property purchase


Jim,
 There have been at least two recent misstatements on the Arkansas Times blog about CAW not bidding on the property now belonging to Dehaven when it had the chance. One, by Kate Althoff, said,  "On July 5, 2005 the land went on the auction block and Central Arkansas Water Commissioners refused to authorize the purchase of the land despite the pleadings of their CEO and COO both of whom conveyed the importance of this land to the water quality." The latest, by "Waterboy" said, "Back about 2005 CAW Commissioner Tom Rimmer, then serving as commission chair, would not allow CEO Jim Harvey bid on over 1,000 acres of critical watershed land that Winrock Sod Farms was selling at public auction."

Neither of these allegations is true, as I hope you will confirm. You will recall that we received word on very short notice that the property would be for sale at auction. There had been a recent FOIA violation in another Arkansas city where a public board had privately authorized purchase of property at auction for a secret price, and then later publicly authorized the purchase. I was advised individually (as were other CAW commissioners, Ipresume) by you or Bruno Kirsch that due to the auction situation and the very short notice, purchasing the property was not practical. I was personally very sorry that this property could not be purchased, as I think we all were. The notion that I, as commission chair, would "not allow" you to bid on the property is not only untrue, but not possible.

The only reference to the situation that I could find in the CAW board minutes for this period is the following from the May 2005 meeting: "Mr. Bruno Kirsch, Jr., P.E., Chief Operating Officer, informed the Board of a proposal for a golf course on property in Zone 2 of the Lake Maumelle Watershed. He said the proposed site is on the Big Maumelle River . Mr. Kirsch said Mr. Frank Whitbeck owns 965 acres in Zone 2 of the lake's watershed. He said the current land use is a sod farm. Mr. Kirsch stated Mr. Whitbeck wants to develop 50 five-acre residential lots and an 18-hole golf course, with water service from the Thornburg Water Association. Mr. Kirsch said utility staff is talking with Mr. Whitbeck about conservation easements and possible acquisition of some property by the utility."

I don't know where these "bloggers" are getting their misinformation, but I hope that you will take a moment to confirm, at least for me, that the allegations are not true.

Thanks,
Tom Rimmer

 **************************************************

From: Jim Harvey
To: Tom Rimmer
Sent: Friday, July 4, 2008 8:17:54 AM
Subject: Fw: Dehaven property purchase

Tom,

I suppose this started when the statement came out publically (several times) that I just stood there at public auction with my hands in my pockets and did not attempt to purchase the property and I said that I was not authorized to bid.

Bruno and I remember discussing the issue and wanted to go to the auction and bid with the understanding that the bid would subject to the approval of the Commission.... we did not take it to the full commission  because it would have required  a special meeting and drawn special attention to the plan. (Because of the Ft. Smith case) Our understanding was that you would talk with other Commissioner.

I believe your comment was,  "we don't have  time."

Please let me know if this is how you remember it.  I will do everything I can to stop the comments and will talk with Max.

Jim

******************************************************************

From: Rimmer
To: Jim Harvey
Sent: Friday, July 04, 2008 3:46 PM
Subject: Re: Dehaven property purchase

Jim,
Thanks for getting back to me on this matter. I don't recall being told of the idea that you might bid on the property subject to the later approval of the commission, but at any rate I could not and would not have talked to other commissioners to gain informal approval for or acceptance of such a plan. My understanding of the Freedom of Information regulations is that such private discussions would be illegal, and that it was precisely such action that was ruled against in the Ft. Smith case.

Despite our perhaps differing recollections of the exact words that were exchanged, I'm glad that you agree with the basic premise that the lack of a bid was due to practical considerations rather than recalcitrance or malfeasance on the part of the Commission or myself.

Tom

****************************************************************************

From: Jim Harvey
To: Rimmer
Sent: Saturday, July 5, 2008 8:13:24 AM
Subject: Re: Dehaven property purchase


Tom,
I have never indicated that it was malfeasance, and wouldn't.  I agree that you would not and should not ask for commission approval of the purchase, but I think that would have been later in an open meeting when the commission would know what had been bid. Looking back, maybe I should have just gone ahead and made a bid, making it clear that the commission would have the opportunity to accept or reject it. I'm just hate the fact that anyone has to go through such trash.  And again, I will talk to everyone that you know of that has had any comment about this. Jim

****************************************************************************

Part 2
****************************************************************************

 

From: Barry Haas
To: Tom Rimmer
Sent: Wednesday, July 2, 2008 12:18:49 PM
Subject: FOIA Request re Winrock Sod Farms Order

Dear Commissioner Rimmer,
I am making a formal Arkansas Freedom of Information Act request of  you regarding the order you gave then Chief Executive Officer of  Central Arkansas Water Jim Harvey in June 2005 that he could not bid  on the Winrock Sod Farms land at public auction.  The Arkansas FOIA  requires you to respond within a specified time frame.

I am requesting any written records you may have regarding this  matter. This would include letters, e-mails, faxes or any other documents that pertain to your discussion with either fellow CAW Commissioners, CAW staff or anyone else.

I also have two questions I need you to answer: 1.  Did you act unilaterally in your instructions to Harvey or did you consult with other CAW Commissioners prior to telling Harvey he did  not have permission to bid on the land? 2.  If you did consult with other CAW Commissioners about this matter, which ones did you consult with?

Please respond at your earliest opportunity as the protection of our drinking water is of utmost interest to 400,000 CAW customers. Sincerely, Barry Haas

*******************************************************

 From: Rimmer
Date: July 2, 2008 2:34:41 PM CDT
To: Barry Haas
Subject: Re: FOIA Request re Winrock Sod Farms Order

Dear Mr. Haas:
I don't know what the basis might be for the idea that you cite about my role regarding the sale of the sod farm back in 2005, but it is not factual. I did not restrict Mr. Harvey from bidding on that property, would not have wished to do so, and could not have done so.

My recollection is that CAW received word on very short notice that the property would be for sale at auction. There had been a recent FOIA violation in another  Arkansas city where a public board had privately authorized purchase of property at auction for a secret price, and then later publicly authorized the purchase. I was advised individually (as were other CAW commissioners, I presume) by either Mr. Harvey or Mr. Kirsch that due to the auction situation and the very short notice, bidding on the property was not practical. I was personally very sorry that this property could not be purchased, as I think we all were. The notion that I, as commission chair, would not allow Mr. Harvey to bid on the property is not only untrue, but not possible.

As far as I know, there is no written documentation of the above. I regret that there is not, since misinformation about the events is being spread about. Just to be specific, since you asked two specific questions: I did not act at all as you have suggested, either unilaterally or in consultation with other commissioners. I have no recollection of discussing the matter with any other commissioners, and I have no letters, emails, faxes or any other documents regarding the matter.

The only reference to the situation that I could find in the CAW board minutes for this period is the following from the May 2005 meeting: "Mr. Bruno Kirsch, Jr., P.E., Chief Operating Officer, informed the Board of a proposal for a golf course on property in Zone 2 of the Lake Maumelle Watershed. He said the proposed site is on the  Big  Maumelle River . Mr. Kirsch said Mr. Frank Whitbeck owns 965 acres in Zone 2 of the lake's watershed. He said the current land use is a sod farm. Mr. Kirsch stated Mr. Whitbeck wants to develop 50 five-acre residential lots and an 18-hole golf course, with water service from the Thornburg Water Association. Mr. Kirsch said utility staff is talking with Mr. Whitbeck about conservation easements and possible acquisition of some property by the utility."

I wonder if you would give me the source of your information on my role in the sod farm situation so that I could make an effort to set the record straight?

Please let me know if you have any further questions. I appreciate your efforts to help preserve our water quality despite the fact that we may have differences of opinion about the best way to do that. Tom Rimmer

 *******************************************************
 From: Barry Haas
Date: July 2, 2008 2:47:56 PM CDT
To: Jim Harvey
Subject: Fwd: FOIA Request re Winrock Sod Farms Order

Jim,

I am forwarding both an e-mail I sent earlier today to Tom Rimmer (at bottom) and his response (below).  I am not sharing this with anyone else at this time.  I would like to get your input on Rimmer's e-mail.

Barry
 *******************************************************
From: Jim Harvey
To: Barry Haas
Cc: Rimmer
Sent: Saturday, July 5, 2008 8:54:34 PM
Subject: Re: FOIA Request re Winrock Sod Farms Order


Barry,
Sorry for the delay in responding, but I have been out of town since early this morning. There is no record of any kind on the file.  I believe Tom is accurate in his email. I have read the minutes. Based on the infromation that Bruno had provided the Commission, it is easy to see how there could have been some confusion.  Based on my conservations  (email) with Tom, I ask that you not persue it further.  Bruno and I did want to bid on the property and maybe should have taken the issue to the Commisison in a meeting or just gone ahead and made a bid with the understanding that the bid must be approved by the CAW Commission. ----Call if you want any other clarifaction.  xxx-xxxx Jim

 

 

From the ArkTimes store

Comments (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment
 

Add a comment

Clicky