The Magna Water Co. voted 2-1 Tuesday night to request the resignation of board trustee Dick Bezzant over allegations he received water and sewer service for 10 years through illegal connections.
But Bezzant, who cast the dissenting vote, said, "I was elected by the people, and I'm going to stay on the job."Board attorney Allen Sims said the trustees have no legal authority to remove Bezzant, who was elected last November to a six-year term.
The resignation call came during a board meeting packed by dozens of angry residents. Critics accused Bezzant of outright theft of services, while supporters complained of political mudslinging and water-company negligence or cover-ups.
A petition signed by 63 residents urged the matter be dropped because Bezzant "offered to right any wrong that may have occurred through misunderstanding."
But a letter from Magna Community Council President Laura Jo McDermaid likened Bezzant to a fox guarding a henhouse and called for a full investigation.
Sims said Bezzant and family members paid $5,850 Tuesday to settle 10 years' worth of unpaid water bills on two properties. He recommended the matter be considered closed.
"All we're going to do is let a little blood unnecessarily," he warned.
But residents discarded that advice, questioning how an illegal connection could go undetected so long and how and when the information came to light.
Company officials declined comment on how they became aware of the unauthorized connections but said they had no previous records of them.
Bezzant said he informed then-trustee Chick Paris of the unbilled service six years ago. "It just took four years to get the bills to me," he said, suggesting the controversy surfaced only recently for political reasons.
Paris, a water board trustee for 18 years, said he knew of no illegal water connections until 1988. The information was not pursued then because of "miscommunication," he said.
Paris was the first at Tuesday's meeting to ask Bezzant to resign.
Trustee Tom Bird then made a formal request for the resignation, saying Bezzant's "credibility as a trustee has been severely damaged and the integrity of the board has been damaged some."
The resignation request was seconded by board Chairman H.T. Dyches.
Sims has said information on the matter was supplied to the county attorney's office. County Attorney David Yocom said Tuesday he is not aware of any investigation by his office.