Eisenberg censured
Santa Clara Valley Water Director Rebecca Eisenberg was censured for abusive behavior towards staff, but the DA's Office decided not to pursue charges. (ValleyWater.org; Composite by Drew Penner)

The Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors today censured Director Rebecca Eisenberg for a pattern of abusive conduct toward water district employees, including racist and sexist comments.

Following an often tense four-and-a-half hour public hearing, the board also stripped Eisenberg of all internal and external committee assignments, severely limited her interaction with district employees for at least one year and required her to enroll in anti-discrimination and anti-bullying training.

The board action followed hours of public comments that included calls for her resignation and a tearful apology from Eisenberg.

The embattled director’s contrite and apologetic demeanor today contrasted sharply with months of allegedly combative and confrontational behavior that led to an investigative report substantiating numerous allegations of abusive conduct.

It was revealed at the hearing that District Attorney Jeff Rosen decided not to charge Eisenberg for theft charges, which had been sought by Valley Water CEO Rick Callender when Eisenberg in January walked out of the district office carrying a copy of the 2,000-page report that accused her of the abusive conduct.

In response to an inquiry from San Jose Inside, the District Attorney’s Office released a statement confirming that decision.

“We did not charge Director [Rebecca] Eisenberg with a crime for taking the investigative report printout because there was insufficient evidence of the criminal intent necessary for a theft charge,” the DA statement said. “This decision does not condone Director Eisenberg’s conduct, nor does it affect the Water District’s civil or internal proceedings related to this matter.”

Board Chair Nai Hsueh formally asked Eisenberg to return her copy of the report, which identified district employees and managers who had been targets of months of criticism from Eisenberg.

The censured director refused, claiming that she had turned the report and all of her water district files over to federal officials, whom she hoped would open an investigation of what she said were corrupt and fraudulent actions by Valley Water in the district’s applications for federal aid for water conservation and flood control projects, including the controversial Pacheco Dam project. She has declined to offer any details of the allegations.

Speakers at the hearing included several representatives from the NAACP and others who called for Eisenberg’s immediate resignation because of the allegations of racist comments to staff and fellow board members.

Other speakers from Valley Water’s District 7 warned that curtailing Eisenberg’s activities in committee and staff work could effectively disenfranchise residents of the northern section of the sprawling water district.

Director Tony Estramera gave the following examples of Eisenberg’s behavior in 2023 that an independent investigation had substantiated:

  • Sexist – “Men love to build things.”
  • Racist – “English isn’t your first language” to Hsueh.
  • Agist – “I’m the only non-Boomer on the board.”

The report substantiated seven allegations from Callender, but could not substantiate another 18. The report specifically did not determine that Eisenberg’s numerous run-ins with the Valley Water CEO were based on his sex or the fact that he is Black, as he alleged.

In response to Eisenberg’s apologies, Estramera said, “You’ll have an opportunity to show us whether you definitely have changed.”

Eisenberg said last year that the investigation had been in retaliation for her raising concerns of rampant sexism at the water district and for criticizing the Pacheco Dam project.

At today’s hearing, she was conciliatory and contrite. “I have chosen not to continue this battle,” Eisenberg told the board. “I have chosen not to fight with you – there has been too much distraction.”

“I am grateful for this investigation,” she said. “I take very seriously that I have offended others and hurt the feelings of others, and I take responsibility for those actions.”

Walter Wilson, one of dozens of speakers at the hearing, discounted the value of Eisenberg’s apologies. “Racism and sexism has no place in Silicon Valley,” he said. “I’m shocked that this board, that none of you guys stood up and defended those people [from Eisenberg’s alleged abusive conduct].”

Mike Kasperzak, a former Mountain View mayor and council member, pleaded with the water board: “We deserve a fully operational director. Removing her from committees…hurts the people of the district – you are affecting their rights as customers and citizens.”

Rev Jethro Moore, former president of the Silicon Valley NAACP, told the water board that the 15-month controversy surrounding Eisenberg’s behavior “casts a dark shadow over your organization.” 

“We expect swift and decisive remedial action by the board,” he said.

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  1. Another ridiculous and idiotic attack on a person for just saying something that we all know.
    Eisenberg DID NOT say anything racist or against aging.
    GET REAL, PEOPLE! You are falling into an abyss of overdoing it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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