Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Who’s Being Disingenuous at Modesto Irrigation District Meetings?

Modesto Marathon  7983

Modesto Marathon 7983 (Photo credit: RussellReno)

By Emerson Drake

Today’s MID meeting was an eye opener. Despite having discussed Martino Graphics invoices twice in the last two weeks with me,  Director VanGroningen still couldn’t get the information from his staff that I requested  over a month ago.

Director Van Groningen and General Manager Allen Short have been using MID’s Non-Purchase Order process to circumvent the system.  These two men took it upon themselves to spend  $24,000 that has been documented to this point and possibly more.  The problem is, all the staff has accounted for is $15,000 of the $24,000.  They’ve been using Martino Graphics to funnel money to Carol Whiteside of California Strategies.  Ms. Whiteside has acknowledged to myself and Van Groningen in an email, that she’s received $9,000 so far with another $6,000 pending from September.  The problem, as I see it, is in a letter to the Board (Oct. 7,2012) in which she admits it became obvious in July she couldn’t proceed  with the agreed upon tasks so she resigned her contract effective August 1, 2012.  The invoices were sent in September from Martino Graphics.

Even if it’s decided she should be paid the $6,000 that has been held up, staff  to this point, has been unable or unwilling to explain why the remaining $9,000 was paid.  It didn’t go to Ms. Whiteside, so why did Allen Short authorize the payments?  According to Van Groningen, Ms. Whiteside has reviewed hundreds of documents but quite honestly I find that dubious. But then again anything to justify the expenditure.

What I find amazing is Van Groningen and Short are using this money (at least $15,000 of it)  to convince the remaining Board members to approve the Board/ General Manager/Staff relationship policy that Board members have refused to rubberstamp since they were sworn into office.  The dynamic duo of Short and Van Groningen tried to get outgoing members Cecil Hensley and John Kidd to approve it,  but Director-elect Larry Byrd made a request from the floor and asked the Board to postpone the vote until January.

Public Information Requests Reveal there is NO Contract between Ms. Whiteside and the MID

So what tasks did Ms. Whiteside agree to perform and how do you resign a contract you don’t have?  And what happened to the still unaccounted for $9,000 dollars?  There are many questions but few answers.

Now lets discuss Contract Purchase Order 54981. My copy of the Purchase order confirms it was valid from 19-JUL-10 thru 31-DEC-11  (If you’re wondering, that’s the way they write their dates.) Not to exceed $450,000 dollars plus costs and expenses.  But GM Short continued to use this Purchase Order thru this year to the tune of $127,000 dollars mostly in the amounts of $19,000 and $21,000 monthly.  They basically used the same generic billing month after month in the amounts of :

Client Meeting / Planning Fees…$5,000

Consulting ……………………………$7,500

Communication Services ………..$3,500

Outreach Transparency…………..$5,000

I requested the contracts for any subcontractors like Mike Lynch and Carol Whiteside, and once again I was told they weren’t available because they didn’t have contracts with MID but had them with Martino Graphics. 

I find the use of Martino Graphics as a shield to prevent the public from knowing where the money is going to be unconscionable. After all, if Mike Lynch is being used as a lobbyist the public has a right to know where their money is being spent.

If this is allowed to continue, how many more contracts, if any,  will we find to be “shields”?  Will we hear “oops my bad”, and then pretend everything is hunky dory? I believe one is one too many. Their problem is that PO#54981 was running out of money so they just switched to the Non-Purchase Order process. No one man, NOT even GM Short or Board President Van Groningen should be allowed to circumvent the system for their own benefit.  I’m not suggesting directly for personal enrichment, but for lubricating the wheels of their personal agendas within MID.

I’ll tell you just how ridiculous this gets. Today at the Budget Workshop we discussed Project Number 3XX965. It’s described as being PRJ- Miscellaneous Operating Expense Exp. for $10,000 for misc. administrative & general. So they can spend it on whatever they want and say “it’s in the budget” as they always do. Because that’s exactly what they said to explain away the use of an expired Purchase Order and the Non-Purchase Order process used with Martino Graphics.

You tell me if we need some additional spending constraints on the General Manager and the Board President.

Questions abound but answers, real answers,  are short in supply.  No pun intended.

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One thought on “Who’s Being Disingenuous at Modesto Irrigation District Meetings?

  1. Dan Hinshaw on said:

    Wow, some great points and questions. I’d like some answers.

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