Rancho Santa Fe water district director resigns after qualifying for ballot


By Joe Tash

An announcement by John Ingalls, a 12-year veteran of the Santa Fe Irrigation District board, that he would immediately step down from his seat and not seek a fourth term, means that none of the three open seats on the panel will be contested at the voting booth this November.

Ingalls, a Rancho Santa Fe resident who had filed his papers to run for a fourth term on Aug. 8, the filing deadline, notified the district of his intention to resign in a letter submitted to the district on Sept. 11. Ingalls’ name will remain on the ballot, because the deadline for officially dropping out of the race has passed, said County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu.

“If I am elected in the November 4, 2014 election to another term, as the Director representing Division Three, I will not take the oath of office,” Ingalls wrote in his resignation letter.

In the letter, he endorsed Marlene King, his lone challenger in the race.

Ingalls’ sudden announcement was one of several reversals over the past six months. In April, he announced in a letter published in the Rancho Santa Fe Review that he would not seek a fourth term due to personal health issues. However, he submitted his papers to run for the seat just before 5 p.m. on Aug. 8, the final day of the filing period. In an email to a reporter at the time, he wrote, “Yes, I am running.”

The Sept. 11 announcement caught Ingalls’ board colleagues off guard. “I was surprised,” said board president Michael Hogan of Ingalls’ resignation, which came just two months before the Nov. 4 election.

Hogan automatically won a new term on the board when no one filed to run against him. In the district’s Division 5, incumbent Andy Menshek did not seek a new term, and only one candidate, former director Augustus Daddi — whom Menshek defeated in 2010 — filed to run, meaning Daddi will also automatically win the seat.

As for King, she said Thursday that she will not take anything for granted, in spite of Ingalls’ resignation.

“I can’t do anything about what his shenanigans might be,” King said of Ingalls. “What he says on Sept. 11, what he might do on Nov. 4. That’s out of my control.”

“I’m running and I’m running hard,” said King, who lives in Fairbanks Ranch and serves as president of that community’s homeowners association.

The district provides water to about 19,400 residents in Rancho Santa Fe, Fairbanks Ranch and Solana Beach. Among the board’s duties is setting water rates for its customers.

On Thursday, Sept. 18, the board discussed Ingalls’ resignation and decided not to appoint a replacement, since his term ends in November.

As for the election, district counsel Paula de Sousa told the board that Ingalls’ resignation letter is not binding, and that if he receives the most votes on Nov. 4, he could opt to accept a new four-year term. If he did win the election but decided not to serve, that would create a vacancy which the board could fill by appointment for two years, until the next regular election, she said.

Reached after the meeting, Ingalls said he does not want to serve another term on the board, but only filed his papers when it appeared there were no other candidates for the seat. He said he was concerned that a lack of candidates could have thrown the decision of filling the seat to the county Board of Supervisors.

Due to a lag in processing paperwork at the county Registrar of Voters office, he said, he was not aware that King had filed to run, also on the afternoon of Aug. 8.

“I didn’t want four more years on the water board. I only ran because no one else did. But when a candidate did qualify late, I decided with only three meetings left in my current term, that staying on the water board wasn’t worth three more meetings of me (being) at odds with the ruling majority,” Ingalls said.

In recent years, Ingalls has been on the losing end of a number of votes, including rate increases and in May, a decision to give a raise to district General Manager Michael Bardin.

“It’s been a great experience. I just am glad I’ve done it for 12 years. But it did get to be dispiriting to be the lone dissenting vote on so many votes,” Ingalls said. Regarding his resignation, he said, “I wanted to hit the nail on the head hard that I did not want to serve any longer. So I’m done. And I feel good about it.”

As a consequence of his decision, Ingalls will also have to step down from his seat as a special district representative on the Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO, which oversees boundary changes, mergers and breakups of local government agencies in San Diego County.

Also on Thursday, the board:

•Approved the replacement of major electrical equipment at the R.E. Badger Filtration Plant at a cost of $3.89 million. The board also voted to allocate an additional $1.1 million for the project, as the actual construction cost exceeded estimates by the district’s engineering consultant by $1 million. The allocation included 10 percent for contingencies.

•Received an update on mandatory water-use restrictions which took effect Sept. 5 in response to a statewide drought. Conservation measures in place before the restrictions took effect resulted in a 4 percent reduction in water use by district customers for the month of August, district officials said. District staff also placed about 20 door hangers on the doors of customers who reportedly have violated the new restrictions, as a “gentle nudge,” said General Manager Michael Bardin. Repeat violators can be fined.