Major California water district hit with rare federal fine

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Federal regulators have announced a rare fine against a major California water district for misleading investors about its financial situation.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Wednesday that it issued $195,000 in fines for Westlands Water District in central California and two current and former executives. The agency is the country's largest irrigation district.

The SEC says Westlands general manager Thomas Birmingham joked about doing "a little Enron accounting" to make the agency's books look better for a $77 million bond issue in 2012.

Regulators say it's only the second such fine by the SEC over a municipal bond issue.

Regulators say water cuts and drought was cutting into the district's revenue at the time. Westlands said Wednesday that it was following the advice of independent auditors.