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Arn Lahde forced out of IID post

September 13, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

A high-ranking Imperial Irrigation District official was forced out and did not leave by "mutual consent" as previously reported, according to an IID board member.

Division 2 Director Bruce Kuhn said in his discussions with Arn Lahde, special assistant to the general manager's office, that Lahde said he did not want to leave but would do so to not make waves.

"In my opinion he was pressured out," Kuhn said this morning. "I feel a grave injustice was done to a good employee and a grave injustice was done to the district."

Kuhn said Lahde was successful in every task he was assigned, including the salvaging of the district's SAP computer system, the sharing of high-speed information access with local school districts and government agencies and was key in the district's completion of customer-service projects.

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"Your thanks for doing a good job should not be to be pressured out," Kuhn said.

IID General Manager Jesse Silva previously said the parting was mutual. This morning Silva would not take a call seeking further comment.

Lahde, reached at home, would only say he is leaving.

"There's no going back now," he said, adding he and Silva are negotiating the terms of the departure.

Division 1 Director Andy Horne said on a personal note he was sad to see Lahde leave, but that it is the result of different management styles between Silva and Lahde.

"In the long run, Jesse runs the district, and how he wants to run the district is his prerogative," Horne said. "I support his decision."

How Silva runs the district might be a question remaining to be dealt with, however.

Kuhn said the district has had two $1 million project cost overruns in the water department — the South Alamo Canal pipelining and the Dahlia Canal pipelining — and no one was disciplined, nor was any action taken at all. Further, he said a current power department project is likely to see a $1 million cost overrun as well.

Kuhn said such are the results of a "good ol' boy network" still in place at the district.

Division 3 Director Lloyd Allen said he was not aware Lahde had actually departed but was aware that Lahde and Silva were discussing the issue.

"That's a decision Jesse has to make," Allen said, adding Lahde was successful at his assigned tasks.

"I think he did an excellent job on the computer system," Allen said. "I think he's been pretty satisfactory."

Meanwhile, Shorty Hickingbottom, chairman of IID's power consumers advisory committee, said Lahde's departure is a shame.

"He's the only one at the district who can implement the efficiency report and now he's gone," Hickingbottom said. "I think there's people at the district who do not want this implemented."

When asked if he meant certain department managers, Hickingbottom said "definitely."

Hickingbottom praised Lahde for his three years of service to the district.

"Arn initiated a lot of positive change at the district," he said. "Now we're going to lose three years."

In a statement released by Lahde on Wednesday, he said it is hard to believe his tenure at IID is up, "but I must move on to other areas that are consuming more and more of my time. I will miss working here and I will miss the people that I have met.

"I have gained lasting relationships with people from the Imperial Valley as a whole," Lahde wrote. "On the other hand, I believe I have made an impact on the way IID conducts normal day-to-day business. The hard work and long hours over the last three years have produced many improvements at the IID and I can move on knowing IID is better positioned to meet future challenges and requirements."

Directors Rudy Maldonado and Stella Mendoza could not be reached for comment.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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