California Water Agency’s General Manager Faces Dismissal Over Harassment Claims

SACRAMENTO, California — The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s board will meet on Thursday to discuss the potential dismissal of its general manager and CEO, Adel Hagekhalil.

This follows allegations of harassment and fostering a toxic work environment by the agency’s chief financial officer, Katano Kaisane.

The board, which oversees water delivery to nearly half of California’s population, will hold a special meeting Thursday morning to address the issue. According to an agenda posted on Tuesday, the board will consider disciplinary actions or the possible termination of Hagekhalil.

Kaisane, who also serves as the assistant general manager, detailed her accusations against Hagekhalil in a letter dated May 27 to board chair Adán Ortega. She described the work environment at the Metropolitan Water District (Met) as “hostile” and “dysfunctional.”

According to the source, Kaisane claimed she faced harassment and retaliation for voicing her concerns about the budget process and described a “shadow leadership team” primarily composed of highly paid consultants and aides from Los Angeles, where Hagekhalil previously worked.

“Throughout my nearly 30 years of government service, I have encountered toxic work environments, but none as hostile and dysfunctional as Metropolitan,” Kaisane wrote. She expressed that Hagekhalil appeared to undermine her role, delegating her authority to his assistants, who then directed her.

Hagekhalil responded via text message, stating he was unaware of the full details of the allegations but believed that claims should be fully investigated rather than accepted at face value. “I have always upheld the highest standards of integrity and promote that for our entire staff at Metropolitan,” he said.

“I truly treat everybody with respect, always, and nobody in my office has been mistreated. Any claim to the contrary is false.”

Hagekhalil also highlighted that he had increased Kaisane’s responsibilities, giving her a more prominent leadership role within the agency.

“When I started at MWD, I increased Katano’s responsibilities on an interim basis, and as CFO, she has had an important leadership role in recent MWD actions, including overseeing the agency’s adoption of a two-year budget and development of a long-range financial plan,” he noted.

Appointed by the board in 2021, Hagekhalil, a civil engineer, has been responsible for managing the state’s largest water wholesaler.

His tasks include boosting the system’s resilience with water recycling and storage, negotiating reductions in the use of Colorado River water, and addressing a budget shortfall due to conservation efforts. Hagekhalil’s initial salary was $400,000.

The Metropolitan Water District’s board consists of 38 members from 26 member agencies, including municipal water providers across Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, and Riverside counties.

The decision to hold a special meeting came after receiving Kaisane’s letter, according to sources familiar with the board and staff discussions.

Kaisane’s letter further criticized Hagekhalil’s management style, accusing him of creating a toxic work environment by sidelining, bullying, harassing, and disrespecting her.

“Despite repeatedly imploring Mr. Hagekhalil to address why I am being sidelined, bullied, harassed, and disrespected by him and his trusted staff, he constantly dismisses my concerns,” she wrote.

Metropolitan spokesperson Rebecca Kimitch declined to comment on the situation, citing the board’s jurisdiction over the matter. She confirmed that Hagekhalil was scheduled to travel to Singapore this week.

The board will meet in a closed session at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday to deliberate on the issue.

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