By Emerson Drake
With some people there is no end to greed and it seems Modesto Irrigation District attorney Tim O’Laughlin of O’Laughlin & Paris LLP is no exception. He went out of his way to troll for business on Tuesday denying a ratepayer the right to discussion during the Consent Items portion of the meeting.
Director Byrd had asked questions regarding Consent Item #1, a motion to approve Warrants in the amount of $970,523.55. He had question relating to the details behind the costs regarding several items. Some of these were answered completely by staff and others vaguely with the caveat they would provide further detail at a later date.
While the individual items were under discussion it was thrown open to public questions. When a ratepayer asked for information regarding two items on the warrant list they were told by Tim O’Laughlin that they would receive their answer via Public Records Act or (PRA). What many aren’t aware of is attorney O’Laughlin’s company gets paid extra to process these very requests.
Now MID’s own guidelines say that discussion will only take place if an item is pulled. The question should have been answered immediately but O’Laughlin decided to create some work for his own company and denied the ratepayer the answer. During the meeting it was pointed out to the Board, that when addressing theCountyBoardof Supervisors or the Modesto City Council regarding Consent items, the answers are forth coming immediately.
A conversation with MID Board President Tom Van Groningen after the meeting suggested the questions should have been answered at the time of the query and the situation would be rectified by the next meeting. On that we’ll have to wait and see. Not that we doubt Director Van Groningen’s word but in the not to recent past Dave Thomas of the Stanislaus Taxpayers Association had worked out an arrangement with MID General Manager Allen Short, only to find out at the next meeting that Mr. Short tossed the agreement aside and continued on as he had previously. It was suggested attorney O’Laughlin had something to do with the change of heart. So until we see if O’Laughlin is allowed to continue to drum up business for his own firm, the only position we can take is to bide our time until the next meeting.
The larger question remains as to why MID’s own attorney is allowed to generate unnecessary work for his company.
The answer to one of the questions, the Chamber of Commerce is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year and MID decided to spend $1,000 of ratepayers money to buy a page in their “special” anniversary issue.
You can decide for yourselves if you believe this is a judicious way to spend your hard earned money.
By the way, the Chamber of Commerce will be receiving a private presentation of the MID water sale propaganda before the rate paying citizens do. When queried, Cecil Russell, the Chambers CEO, wasn’t concerned that they wouldn’t hear both side of the discussion. He believes these “Businessmen” can discern what needs to be done without all of the facts.
We believe, just as in a political debate, both side of a discussion should have the opportunity to present their points of view.
No offense to anyone but maybe the ratepayers who have spoken up against the water sale should have bought a page in their anniversary issue too.
For February 27th on Athens Abell’s ‘On Watch’ cable television show proponents for the sale of water have been invited, Josh Vanderveen and a representative for the Latino Roundtable either Armando Flores or Ruben Villalobos have been invited as they have been outspoken at MID meetings. Two individuals who have spoken out against the sale, John Duarte and Todd Sill have been asked to come and represent the anti-sale side of the discussion. Final details have yet to be worked out.