By Emerson Drake
I’ve been going to MID meetings for more than six years, writing about them for just short of five and been talking on the radio about them for four years in February. During that time I’ve consistently made some suggestions hoping they would be implemented. But honestly, they haven’t gained any traction until recently. Others have joined me in making these requests from time to time, and I’m not trying to claim the ideas were all mine. During Mike Serpa’s time on the MID Board we had someone who cared, but one person on the Board couldn’t get anything on the agenda (unless your name was Tom Van Groningen or Allen Short) let alone manage to create real change in the way things were done, no matter how hard they tried.
Even with the addition of Directors Larry Byrd and Nick Blom it took ten months to get to the point of generating and possibly passing some out of the box ideas (for MID) that other public entities have been utilizing for years. MID does place their agendas on-line but they remove them before the next meeting, never to be seen again without a Public Information Request and most of those are drawn out to the legally mandated limit of 10 working days at best even when the information is readily available. They also seldom place supporting material on-line linked to the agendas like other public agencies do. See the City of Modesto’s website as an example of doing things the correct way.
The Board’s policy is to destroy the electronic records of the meetings 100 days after the meeting. I’ve never understood this policy especially since they wait until AFTER the records are destroyed to approve the minutes. The October 21, 2012 agenda shows them approving the minutes from 6/23/12, a delay of 120 days.
We’ve asked the Board repeatedly to preserve the records and place them on-line along with streaming the video live. They’ve consistently refused to seriously consider any of these suggestions.
As recently as last week I once again repeated the request for separate email addresses for the Board members that the General Manager wouldn’t be privy to. Why should he or his replacement be monitoring a Board member’s communications?
The MID’s Purchase Orders process needs to be better defined. Here is the part of the resolution staff has been willing to share. Director Van Groningen brought the above to me for one of our private meetings and I don’t know if he shared it with the rest of the Board or not. A complete copy will be handed out to the Board on Tuesday at the scheduled meeting. This is what he/staff provided, a partial of Resolution 2010-35.
3.Contract Purchase Order 54981 issued July 2010 states that it is effective through December 31, 2011.
This PO is for services to “Refocus and Enhance Public Education and Information Services per Board Resolution 2010-35.” These services included a variety of consulting activities through subcontractors retained by Martino Graphic Design with MID’s approval.
This Project was undertaken at the direction of the Board in accordance with the referenced resolution, stating as follows:
The Board of Directors of the Modesto Irrigation District does hereby authorize and direct the General Manager to continue implementing legislative and regulatory activities to further the goals and interest of the District in State and Federal jurisdictions, including…7. Implementing a program to improve the image and credibility of the District with is ratepayers.
As an example Staff currently believes after reading the above Board Resolution 2010-35
- Based on the foregoing resolution, the General Manager clearly would have had the authority to make expenditures under this PO, and to extend the time and not-to-exceed value of the PO;
In other words they (Short’s staff) support the idea the GM can not only indefinitely extend a purchase order time limit but that the not-to-exceed value is meaningless and the GM is given Carte Blanche or an open checkbook, if you will.
I don’t believe that’s what the true meaning of the resolution is and I haven’t been able to read the entire resolution due to their foot-dragging response to Public Information Requests. But that is the portion the quote as applicable. These aren’t the General Manager’s private monies, they are ratepayer supplied funds. We deserve a staff who believes in responsible controls, a staff who won’t create verbage to support the GM’s desires and lacking that, the Board needs to provide unquestionable guidance and a promise of a dire consequence when its instructions are flaunted. An area in the past where they’ve fallen woefully short.
GM Short’s staff may be trying to create an “out” but in my opinion it’s an inappropriate use of money that cannot be overlooked or swept under the rug. How many other occurrences of this type of malfeasance in office have taken place?
The phrase “Not to exceed” on purchase orders means what it says. It doesn’t mean spend however much you want.
We want to thank Directors Byrd, Blom, and Warda for pushing these ideas to the forefront. Now lets bring them home.
In Sunday’s Bee, Judy Sly finally gets around to agreeing with many of the items we’ve been suggesting for years. Thanks for getting on the “Band Wagon” Modesto Bee, now help us follow through with the rest of the many, much-needed changes.