August 16, 2011

The Desert Sun: David Roth's path leads to Fiji, back again

1:32 AM, Aug. 16, 2011
Written by
Keith Matheny
The Desert Sun

The adventure was only beginning for David Roth after the Democrat lost the 45th Congressional District race to incumbent Palm Springs Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack in November 2006.

Roth not only left the valley after that electoral defeat; he left the country. He went on to become one of the top executives at Fiji Water, working as director of external affairs for the bottled water company in the Pacific island nation.

But that job in paradise took a dramatic turn last November.

Armed forces chief Commodore Frank Bainimarama has ruled the politically unstable country since he took power in a coup in 2006 — Fiji's fourth coup since 1987.

Bainimarama took a hard line with foreign companies, imposing a 15-cent-per-liter tax on Fiji Water last November, and deporting Roth from the country, accusing him of acting “in a manner prejudicial to good governance and public order.”

“The prime minister warned that Fiji, like any other sovereign country, will not tolerate any non-citizens interfering in its domestic affairs and governance, which is in clear breach of the provisions of the Immigration Act,” the Fiji village website Suva reported on Nov. 21.

A more detailed description of the allegations against Roth was never provided by the Fijiian government.

Acting Fiji Prime Minister Ratu Epeli Ganilau, who also served as the nation's Minister for Defense, Immigration and National Security, resigned in protest, after refusing to issue the removal order against Roth.

Roth only weeks earlier had received a “Special Citation Award” from the U.S. Ambassador to Fiji, for his work to promote clean water supplies in the country.

Shortly upon his return to the U.S., Roth left Fiji Water. Whether that was his decision, the company's or a mutual agreement is unclear.

Roth and a Fiji Water spokeswoman did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Roth has landed at California Competes, a San Francisco-based consortium blending higher education, business and civic leaders to “develop goals for post-secondary education and training that aim to meet the demands of the emerging economy,” according to the group's website.

The endeavor is a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

It's a return to working in the field of higher education for Roth, who previously served as Commissioner and Chairman of the California Student Aid Commission.

“I really think that's one of his first loves, working on education and improving lives,” said Elle Kurpiewski, president of Democrats of the Desert.

Roth and his two adopted children live in Santa Monica, Kurpiewski said.

“We miss David,” she said. “He is a really intelligent, caring person. I'm hoping someday we can lure him back down here to the desert.”

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