Jerry Needham - Express-News
Olivares was ordered to turn in his keys and district property and to cease all communications with the utility's staff in the resolution approved unanimously by the seven-member board.
Olivares, who has headed the agency since 2005, objected to the suspension, saying it was inconsistent with procedures laid out in his contract.
“I do want to say that I'm innocent of these charges, and I look forward to the opportunity to address the facts and present the facts,” he told the board.
The board is planning a Thursday meeting to formally initiate proceedings that could result in the termination of Olivares' contract, said board Chairman Victor Villarreal.
“I think it was in violation of my contract, but they did what they did,” Olivares said after the meeting. “I haven't taken a vacation in four years, so I'll have some time off and work on my defense.”
“It's not a happy day for BexarMet,” Villarreal said.
“We would expect to hire an attorney on Thursday,” Villarreal said. “It basically relieves our in-house counsel of any perception that may be out there that he would have an influence on the board. This way, we have an outside counsel not affiliated with BexarMet to address this issue with the board.”
“It would be the best bet to say that at (the Thursday meeting) he would be given a 10-day notice,” Villarreal said, adding that the allegations would be those stated in the indictments.
The board would determine not if the criminal charges are accurate, he said, but “if there was any serious conduct that implicated BexarMet or that we felt was a disservice to the district.”
Board member Lesley Wenger, a frequent critic of Olivares who often has been at odds with the board majority, said, “I think there was a real consensus and a real actual sense of camaraderie this time that we haven't seen for a long time — that everybody wants to put the district first, and I'm glad to see that.”
He's also accused of ordering the monitoring and taping of office phones of four managers he knew to be critical of his administration. Included among those were Morin, the new interim manager.
The agency, heavily in debt and besieged with customer complaints about water pressure, high rates and poor service, has struggled for several years to turn things around.
Created in 1949, BexarMet's troubles have been a topic of discussion at the state Legislature.
Instead, they placed it under the oversight of a legislative committee with mandates for improvements. That committee is to report to the Legislature in January its recommendations for the utility's future.