Dan Masnada | Misleading Occupations on Ballot

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Editor’s note UPDATED Oct. 21 (below letter):

When is a person’s “occupation” not his or her actual job? Apparently when that person is running for local public office. Two challengers for Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency Division 3 director seats have filed for election using ballot designations that are unquestionably and intentionally misleading. Kathye Armitage’s “occupation” designation on the November ballot is “water sustainability advisor” and Stacy Fortner’s ballot designation is “groundwater sustainability advisor.” However, neither works or has worked as a career professional in the water industry. 

The California Code of Regulations (CCR) section 20714 states: 

“Proposed ballot designations…shall be subject to the following provisions:

“a) The terms ‘profession,’ ‘vocation,’ or ‘occupation,’ as those terms are used in Elections Code § 13107, subdivision (a)(3), are defined as follows:

“1) ‘Profession’ means a field of employment requiring special education or skill and requiring knowledge of a particular discipline…

“2) ‘Vocation’ means a trade, a religious calling, or the work upon which a person…relies for his or her livelihood and spends a major portion of his or her time…

“3) ‘Occupation’ means the employment in which one regularly engages or follows as the means of making a livelihood…” 

Both individuals were appointed earlier this year by the SCV Groundwater Sustainability Agency board of directors to serve on its Stakeholder Advisory Group. Armitage and I were appointed to serve on the SAC as “at large” members while Fortner was appointed as one of two “environmental” members. 

The SCV GSA was established by the SCV Water Agency, city of Santa Clarita and L.A. County in compliance with state legislation enacted in 2014 to ensure the valley’s groundwater aquifers are managed in a sustainable manner. The SAC was subsequently established by the SCV GSA to assist in its efforts to conduct outreach and solicit public input. It is a volunteer committee comprised of individuals representing various interest groups consisting of the business community, environmentalists, groundwater pumpers and the public at large. It generally meets once a month for two to four hours to review public outreach material, provide input to agency staff and consultants, and monitor public workshops. 

It is very apparent Armitage’s and Fortner’s ballot designations are based solely on their appointment to the SAC and intended to create a false impression they have water industry experience or water-related expertise of some sort. Since Armitage and I both applied for the two at large positions on the SAC, we were provided each other’s copies of our applications as well as those of the other individuals who applied for the same position. Her statement of qualification did not contain any water industry experience, although she indicated she is taking courses in the Water Systems Technology certificate program offered by College of the Canyons.  

Fortner originally listed some type of IT profession as her ballot designation but oddly changed it before the deadline. She clearly has a job that has nothing to do with groundwater. Furthermore, when she twice ran unsuccessfully for the Castaic Lake Water Agency board of directors (CLWA was the predecessor of the SCVWA), she did not use the “groundwater sustainability advisor” ballot designation either time (she filed as a “senior account executive” in 2014). Of course, the so-called “occupation” did not exist then and, as a practical matter, still does not exist.

Without question, the minimal and unpaid time commitment to the SAC does not qualify as a profession, vocation or occupation as defined by the CCR. Unfortunately, the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder’s office did not reject Armitage’s and Fortner’s ballot designations, which may not come as a complete surprise since hundreds of individuals filed for various elected positions throughout the county. Regardless, these two candidates should have used ballot designations that truthfully reflect their principal occupations and not purposely attempt to deceive the public as to their qualifications. Reference to their participation on the SAC would appropriately be mentioned in their ballot statements but certainly not as their principal occupations. 

When an employer determines a job candidate has misrepresented relevant qualifications or work history, that candidate is usually not hired. In this case, the SCV Water Division 3 voters are the employer and they should consider the misleading ballot designations when they make the hiring decision for these two individuals on Nov. 3.  

Dan Masnada

Former CLWA general manager

Santa Clarita

Editor’s note: In response to Masnada’s letter, it was pointed out to The Signal that Masnada had previously filed a challenge against the ballot designations chosen by Armitage and Fortner. Masnada says he never received a ruling from the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder’s Office one way or the other. Fortner has since provided a copy of the following email from the Registrar-Recorder’s Office:

“We have completed our review and have accepted the use of your ballot designation of  Groundwater Sustainability Advisor.  This however, does not preclude anyone from filing a writ of mandate to challenge your designation after our review and opinion.

“Thank you,

“Laticia McCorkle, Assistant Division Manager”

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