Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Water at heart of heated email exchanges between Borba, others

West-side grower Mark Borba was forced to step down as Community Medical Centers’ board chair after he sent an email with a racially insensitive comment about President Barack Obama.

The story appeared in Tuesday’s Bee.

But Borba’s statement was just one small part of a long-running series of email exchanges on March 1 that exposed a seamier side of politics not often seen by the general public.

Mark Borba

The emails went on for hours and primarily involved Borba, Johnny Amaral, who is chief of staff for Rep. Devin Nunes, a Tulare Republican, and Westlands Water District General Manager Tom Birmingham.

Several others, including Westlands board members and staffers for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, were copied in some of the emails.

The f-word was often used, as were other expletives.

It all started with Borba thanking Rep. Jim Costa, a Fresno Democrat, for writing a letter to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor.

In the letter, Costa urged the Bureau to increase water pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which is restricted because of protections in place to protect the delta smelt.

Borba then added: “This is total insanity. Where the Hell is Feinstein & the Administration?” He then goes on to detail the economic losses to the Valley’s west side before concluding: “The Senator’s silence is deafening.”

One of those copied on the email was Birmingham, who responded with a defense of Feinstein. He wrote to Borba that “Senator Feinstein and her staff have been pushing Interior and Reclamation behind the scenes.”

It is at that point that Borba explodes with multiple expletives and calls Obama “Blackie.” He wrote: “I’m tired of these (expletive) politicians waltzing thru here… telling us how tough things are… picking our pockets for campaign $$$$… and they returning to DC and doing nothing! Put their (expletive) careers on the line… or step down.”

Birmingham then lashed out in response, telling Borba to “give me a (expletive) break.” He then brings the Valley’s Republican congressional delegation — Nunes, Bakersfield’s Kevin McCarthy, Hanford’s David Valadao and Turlock’s Jeff Denham — into the increasingly heated email conversation.

Tom Birmingham

“The question you should be asking,” Birmingham wrote to Borba, “is where in the (expletive) were Denham, Nunes, Valadao and McCarthy, all of whom were asked to sign the (Costa) letter.”

Birmingham tells Borba that all of Costa’s Valley Republican congressional colleagues refused to sign the letter.

Borba then responds with an email to Nunes. He copied both Amaral and Birmingham. In the email, Borba tells Nunes that “standing on the sidelines… is not helpful. We’re dying out here… and you’re playing politics? What’s your excuse? If we ran our businesses like you guys run Congress… we’d be broke. Come to think of it… we’re getting there… with your ‘help.’”

Amaral responds, telling Borba he is “pathetic.”

“How quickly (Westlands) forgets what we did… and how they allowed (Feinstein) to do nothing at all. Its no wonder you guys continue to lose. Sending (expletive) letters meant to cover someones (expletive) does nothing to advance the effort,” Amaral wrote.

Borba then, in essence, asks both Amaral and Nunes — what have you done for west-side agriculture lately? Amaral replies that Nunes and his fellow Republicans did do something for the west side last year, “and you guys completely (expletive) it up and threw it away.”

At one point, Amaral writes “blah blah blah. The moment you (expletive) get your lord and savior difi (Feinstein) to do something… ANYTHING at all, the House will move a bill again.”

In an interview Tuesday, Amaral explained this part of his exchange with Borba. He said it was about H.R. 1837, legislation that would have would restored about 1.4 million acre-feet of water annually to Valley farmers who have lost water to environmental causes.

Amaral said considerable work went into the bill, which eventually passed the Republican-controlled House with the support of 10 Democrats, including Costa. But then the Senate — or Feinstein — did nothing.

“It was a gift teed up do something relevant on water and it was squandered,” Amaral said in the interview.

Instead, Amaral said, west-side ranchers and growers held a fundraiser for Feinstein.

As the emails between Amaral and Borba grow uglier and more personal, Amaral adds a new element, telling Borba he didn’t appreciate him “calling Devin a (expletive) to (Republican businessman) Tal Cloud.”

Borba responds: “Sometimes the truth hurts.”

During the exchanges, Nunes, Cloud and Fresno County Lincoln Club Chairman Michael Der Manouel Jr. weigh in. Both Nunes and Der Manouel write to Borba saying that letters are useless — Der Manouel saying they “don’t mean (expletive).”

Cloud’s contribution: “I can’t wait to hear the other side of the story on this. Most likely (Nunes) is tired of you everyone (sic) kissing Feinstein’s (expletive) when she never comes through on issues that matter.”

Amaral said Tuesday he regretted his use of profanity — but not the content of the emails.

“I will defend to my last dying breath the work Devin has done to improve the water situation in California and in the Valley,” he said. “I am proud of the work we’ve done.”

Nunes pointed out in an interview that several Westlands growers support and have donated to Democrats such as Feinstein and Gov. Jerry Brown. He said those Democrats “laugh at these guys over drinks, and they’re playing them for money.”

“This is no different than what we’ve been telling these guys,” Nunes added. “They have a flawed strategy that is doomed to failure.”

Borba and Birmingham both declined to comment on the emails. Feinstein also declined to comment.


Larry Taylor says:

It sounds like we should see the letter that Rep. Costa wrote to the Bureau of Reclamation and others wouldn’t sign.

Ricardo says:

Obviously, Mark Borba was on a mission to make a point while committing career suicide for something he strongly believed in. What a costly error… or was it !? Many who share Mr. Borba’s feelings about this topic will applaud Mark for stating his mind. But in the long run, it was wrong and insensitive! Mark Borba should have remembered the 10-second rule and bit his tongue, or in this case – not hit send, before saying something he will forever regret !!!

John Ellis says:

Here is a link to the letter Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, wrote to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation:

idalovegod says:

I am confused as to why Fresno Bee has decided to pull the email. One moment i was reading it then my computer froze up and now it is completly missing. I am also confused as to why the media seems to minimize certain actions by certain people and maximize certain actions by others. for instance every site that i ahve read about this email on merly says that Borba sent a racially insensitive email. I think that calling any one, let alone the :President of the United states a blacky and referring to NGO’s is a whole hell of a lot more than just racially insensitive. it just tells me that the racial mentality of the ones printing the story and editing it must be very similiar to his. But then again having originally come from Los angeles and moved to Fresno 10 years ago i have found that African Americans in this county are looked up as merly Blackies that are stepped on and forgotten. I guess since they appear to be so weak that they have allowed the race relations in Fresno to continue to be as it was in the South back in the 50’s, they probably deserve it. so me, an African american or where i come from they say a Black Person is getting the hell out of this racist ass county. You hispanics and whites can continue to call these weak ass African American blackies as far as i care.

Mark Gillaspy says:

One can’t help but wonder what the real reasons behind the non-allocation of water to the vast farmlands of the great Central Valley except that there is something WAY bigger and threatening going on behind closed doors in Sacramento and Washington.Something that obviously is a destroyer of many hopes and lives of the humanity (not enviromental absurdity)located here.

Folsom says:

This is a good example of why Fresno remains the low end of the economic scale in the country. If I were Feinstein I’d erase California’s west side from the map when it comes to politics. It’s only a matter of time until the taxpayers will no longer be able to afford to feed the Westlands golden Ox.

Mike Barkley says:

Water started this argument. This water plan would solve it:

don says:

It seems logical to stop the water flows to the west side. After all, the big corporations stole the land many years ago when the government proposed the Delta-Mendota canal system. Does anyone remember what they did to the tax payer…………..I guess the governor doesn’t.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *