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SDCWA hires Gauna, Sesma

January 15, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

Two Imperial Valley residents have been hired by the San Diego County Water Authority to be its liaisons to the Latino community on water transfer issues.

A third, former resident, has been hired as its government relations representative.

Brawley resident Gerald Gauna and El Centro resident Grace Sesma were hired to help make contact with the various community groups throughout Imperial County, according to a Jan. 10 letter from SDCWA General Manager Maureen Stapleton to Imperial Irrigation District General Manager Jesse Silva.

Gauna would only say he has been hired part-time through the end of the school year to communicate the benefits of the water transfer to the Latino community. He said he also will help open doors on behalf of the SDCWA so that its views can be made known.

Janice Collins, director of public affairs for the SDCWA, said contracts with Gauna and Sesma have not been finalized, but that the clear intent is that they work for the authority.

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"It's a matter of paperwork right now," she said Monday.

Rumors that the two would be hired as consultants have been in the wind for weeks, and Gregg Hartung, then spokesman for the SDCWA, confirmed the hirings last week."They came to us highly recommended," he said.

In 1995 Gauna was convicted of conspiracy and bribery in a case involving two El Centro developers for whom he was a consultant. The case also involved a former Calexico city councilman.

Gauna was sentenced to 33 months in prison and three years probation. According to press reports, after his conviction, he also pleaded guilty to perjury in his testimony. He and the others were convicted in federal district court in San Diego. At the time Gauna was a postal worker, a job he lost.

The charges were that the accused tried to bribe the Calexico city manager to convince the Calexico City Council to pay the developers millions in extra money for land they were selling.

Until Monday, Gauna was a full-time, permanent employee, of the Imperial Irrigation District. He was hired as a construction/maintenance worker in January 1999.

"I resigned (Monday)," he said. "I can't work for both. That would be a conflict."

Gauna said he will submit a letter of resignation from IID's community advisory commission.

Meanwhile, Sesma, a public relations consultant and personal coach, said she will work part-time for the SDCWA. Until recently she operated a downtown El Centro business.

In 1999 Sesma received a $75,000 settlement from the college over allegations of sexual harassment by college President Gilbert Dominguez. She was the college's foundation development director, in charge of soliciting donations for the college. She began working with the school in January or February 1998.

She alleged the sexual harassment lasted about one year, her attorney at the time said.

Separately, the San Diego County Water Authority's new government relations representative is Lauren Grizzle, formerly executive director of the Imperial County Farm Bureau and the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association. Grizzle now lives in the San Diego area.

Collins said Grizzle will track legislation and focus on community relations. Grizzle starts work Jan. 22, Collins said.

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

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