Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

MID Board Takes One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

By Emerson Drake

Board President Tom Van Groningen, in a surprise move Tuesday, allowed an extremely rare opportunity for the public to exchange thoughts with the board’s attorney, Tim O’Laughlin.  O’Laughlin spoke to the fact sheet Reed Smith previously to the Modesto City Council and supplied to MID’s Board at last weeks meeting.

“I’m Shocked just Shocked” 

This was the theatrical claim made by O’Laughlin. His reference was to the use by Reed Smith of a 60,000 acre feet seepage total from Modesto reservoir.  Those of use who sit through these outbursts of O’Laughlins were shaking our heads.  The 60,000 acre feet number was used by MID staff, General Manager Allen Short, and O’Laughlin at every presentation made to the public up to and including the presentation made to the Modesto City Council.

When you sit in these meetings month after month you start to understand why MID’s Board doesn’t want to save these performances by legal counsel.  After all, have you ever known a public entity to destroy video discs taken at their meetings after 100 days and before the minutes are accepted?  But that is standard operating procedure at MID.

So once again MID staff has revised their numbers to improve the private agenda-driven (personal profit amongst other considerations) goals of attorney O’Laughlin and GM Short.

There were only a few members of the public present to hear the latest diatribe against concerned citizens. Heck,  the MID staff out numbered the public two to one but that didn’t put a damper on those present to counter the propaganda issued at Short’s request by O’Laughlin.

After the short propaganda presentation shyster, O’Laughlin was asked for a hard copy of the numbers which he refused saying they would be available on the MID website by the end of the week.

At this point we have only two members on the board, Larry Byrd and Nick Blom who have shown concern and been responsive to the public.  Both of these men display a personal quest to understand where MID spends its money.  Understand that it isn’t because they’re new, it’s because they care.  Most of the questions they ask can’t be answered by GM Short or shyster/attorney O’Laughlin. They are usually answered by staff because Short and O’Laughlin don’t know the answers.  The other members of the board, Tom VanGroningen, Glen Wild (who has never in the last two years shown an interest in doing anything but playing sycophant), and Paul Warda (who is ill and we hope for his speedy recovery),  haven’t displayed an understanding of the complexities of MID’s spending despite their years on the board.  Glen Wild has been on the board two years and has displayed less knowledge and has asked fewer questions than Larry Byrd, who has only been on the board for four months.

Rubber stamps like VanGroningen, Wild and Warda don’t have to know why….they just have to know when to vote and how Allen Short wants them to vote.

Now of major concern is the poor leadership of Tom VanGroningen.  In most instances when you address the consent calendar of a public body by pulling items of consent, they will take a moment and explain what the item is for. The MID Board has  gone both ways on this issue but after the meeting Tuesday, Tom Van Groningen stated the board would no longer respond to public inquiries at meetings.  He specifically stated questions will not be answered about warrants(one method MID uses to pay their bills) and people can make statements but the board will not respond to questions.

This I find is a curious way for the board, which during the meeting, claimed they wanted to be open with the public, to respond.  It was bad enough O’Laughlin lied to Director Byrd during the last meeting, when he claimed he didn’t know how MID handled his invoices after he submitted them.  Why do I say he lied?  Because shyster O’Laughlin had already been paid.

Why do we need more openness?  Because Allen Short and Tim O’Laughlin have repeatedly involved staff in  juggling the numbers and information made available  to make Shorts expansive and unrealistic visions of the future, the same visions requiring our rates to rise,  seem reasonable.  After all O’Laughlin let the cat out of the bag when he admitted Oakdale Irrigation District doesn’t feel any need for recapture ponds like the ones Short and staff says are not only necessary but imperative to the tune of $72 Million.

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