[CALIFORNIA-A-0023] Don Pedro Dam (Photo credit: waterarchives)
By Emerson Drake
MID has come through some very turbulent times. They had an iron fisted General Manager in Allen Short and until last year MID’s Board of Directors was a rubber stamp for his misguided dictatorial policies. Unfortunately it is the public that has been required to foot the bill. Here is an example of what has gone on during the last year of Allen Short’s reign.
Back in 2010 the Board allowed GM Short to create a policy know as Resolution No. 2010-35. This resolution, when combined with Purchase Order 54981 to Martino Graphic Design (MGD) for a total of $450,000, effectively created a slush fund using Joy Warren as Regulatory Administrator for control. The original purpose for this fund included concerns about regulation concerning the delta, greenhouse gas, state regulations, and a euphemistic “improve the image and credibility of the district.”
But through a series of phone calls leaving no paper trail, the Resolution was bastardized and at least $148,000 went, utilizing “creative descriptions,” to a series of players/vendors to be used to create a false image of the potential water sale to the general public. It’s my opinion this was done by nefarious design to make tracking the money and proving where it went difficult, if not almost impossible. At least one recipient of the slush fund (Janice Keating) spoke before the Board claiming to be a private citizen while others recruited “politicos”, both politicians and wannabee’s to speak in favor the sale thus attempting to create a false impression using testimony for hire to fool the media and the unsuspecting public.
The Key to the Code
Throughout the year I submitted multiple formal Public Information Requests and queried the MID Board in a variety of ways during meetings, trying to get to the bottom of where the money was going . But MID’s staff, management, and attorney, refused to provide any real answers other than the veiled documents themselves. Finally on December 18, 2012 after a tumultuous MID Board meeting, Modesto Bee Reporter Garth Stapley was given the key to the code by a MID staff member to decipher the Martino Graphic design invoices. His story is here with the relevant information on page two. http://www.modbee.com/2012/12/18/2500794_p2/raises-okd-for-modesto-irrigation.html
Unfortunately, Garth only broke down the current invoice totalling $48,500, instead of the entire amount of $148,000 billed in 2012, despite being in possession of the earlier invoices MID already paid to MGD. We know he had the earlier invoices because I sent them to both Garth Stapley and to Judy Sly many weeks earlier in an attempt to get them to write a story about what was going on.
Money was laundered using Martino Graphic Design as a middle man. The plan was designed to allow MID to make the claim, which they did, of having no contracts with those receiving the money and as such did not know where it was going.
Here is the Breakdown as we Know it Today
During the year 2012 under the guise labeled Outreach and Transparency, Janice Keating took $28,000. Under Communications Services Mark Looker took $28,500 and under Consulting, Mike Lynch took a whopping $52,500. For their part in this ruse Martino Graphics Design pocketed $29,000.
In a recent Public Information Request response MID stated “NO money has been given to Janice Keating or Mike Lynch for the last THREE years.” The same PIR showed Carol Whiteside had only received $1,500 dollars to her or her company, California Strategy, in the last three years when the actual total to Ms. Whiteside is almost $30,000. In a follow-up conversation with Asst. General Manager Lou Hempel, he stated “after checking I show no money other than the $1,500 to Carol Whiteside’s California Strategy’s has been paid to any of the three in the last six years.”
MID used ratepayer’s money deceptively to create a false impression in the public’s mind in order to sell water we don’t have in order to hide the financial mismanagement that has been going on for many years. It would be my suggestion this type of paid testimony has been going on for years. Unfortunately only an in-depth investigation by knowledgable persons would discover what has been occurring. Several members of staff including Joy Warren, took an active role in this, what can be described at best as a legally questionable tactic. No effort was made by staff including the General Manager to inform the Board members, yet by their own admissions during public meetings, Directors Tom VanGroningen and Glen Wild were willing participants to the deception.
MGD did create a few flyers, stickers, and handouts but these were billed separately and at much smaller costs to the same PO number. MID Board Agenda Report from their December 18, 2012 meeting was filled with deception and what can only be described as political spin trying desperately to paint a false impression to anyone who hadn’t been following their exploits for the past year.
Did you know MID is still paying former General Manager Allen Short his regular pay through October of this year despite him having left back in December? You do now. Are you wondering why there was a $60,000 investigation conducted by the personnel department at the end of last year? Maybe you should be.