[CALIFORNIA-A-0021] Don Pedro Dam (Photo credit: waterarchives)
By Emerson Drake
The newly appointed members of the Water Advisory Committee were introduced at yesterday’s MID meeting. But you have to wonder if TomVanGroningen is starting to slip just a bit. He introduced Richard Ulm, the City of Modesto’s choice, but “forgot” to offer him an opportunity to speak. He made a point of allowing everyone else an opportunity. Well, maybe except his own appointee who he failed to introduce for several minutes. He eventually went back and allowed his man the opportunity to be heard but never allowed the City appointees an opportunity. We’re seeing slips like these more often in recent months along with his occasional volcanic outbursts of temper.
During public input for the good of the District, I suggested to the Board they needed to investigate the way Allen Short, Tom VanGroningen, Glen Wild and apparently willing accomplice Joy Warren (Ms. Warren with Short signed authorizations for $90,000 plus on expired Martino Graphics payments) laundered money through Martino Graphics. I also asked that they please explain “exactly” what the money was used for. I also reminded them of the $28,800 they paid George Petrulakis for facilitating the only meeting between the City and MID regarding the potential water sale. There has to be more to the story but the Board, to this point, has refused to authorize an investigation into this apparent misappropriation of funds.
If MID continues to stonewall inquiries in these regards it appears it’s time to attempt to get either the District Attorney (which at this point isn’t likely) or the Civil Grand Jury to investigate where the ratepayer’s money has gone. Although I believe our local Civil Grand Jury politically protects a chosen few, it would seem to be our only recourse. In the future when Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild are gone, maybe we can discover who was behind the cover-up.
In a prior article I wrote about the $210,000 for the 2nd floor’s carpet which comes to $61.76 per yard and the $30,000 for two desks and a counter for outside Short’s office along with an ice machine which for $8,000, you would think has a flat screen and Internet access! https://eyeonmodesto.com/2012/09/24/people-1-mid-0-in-best-of-7/. This was straight from a MID Budget workshop meeting. Director Byrd questioned the carpet and desks but didn’t include the ice machine which, according to professionals I contacted, is extremely overpriced. And while I agree with Director Byrd about the GM’s car I didn’t write about it at the time.
How the Dust Up / Van Groningen’s Meltdown Began
At the beginning of the budget discussion Director Van Groningen used his authority to bump Bill Bassitt from the Workforce Alliance to the front of the discussion. Mr. Bassitt was there to request a donation of ratepayer money (although he didn’t describe it that way) for his organization. During his talk, which wasn’t timed like the rest of the public, and in the response to a question, he made the claim that the Oakdale Irrigation District was donating $10,000 to the Alliance this year. Having been to the OID meeting last week, I knew they hadn’t donated $10,000 in several years, but I wasn’t allowed to ask a follow-up question of Mr. Bassitt who left the proceedings 5-10 minutes later.
What I don’t understand is the way, especially at MID, the public is treated like children who don’t know anything. When I had the opportunity to speak 20 minutes or so later I took the opportunity to point out the obvious discrepancy in donation figures and mentioned the Alliance’s budget isn’t completely available on their website. After I sat down Tom Van Groningen pulled one of his favorite CHEAP SHOT TACTICS. Tom waits for you to sit down so he can launch a diatribe against you when you can’t respond without being gaveled down for being out of order. Tom’s blood pressure jumped and he started raising his voice claiming I was wrong and he wasn’t going to stand for it. Well he didn’t stand for it because he remained seated.
So yesterday afternoon I talked with someone from the Alliance and arranged to speak with someone more informed from there this morning. Not surprisingly after a few questions Bill Bassitt came on the line. First we talked about the Alliance’s Budget. It is actually at least three budgets. Of course, like asking questions at MID, you need to ask the question exactly the right way or you won’t get the real answer. it took several follow-up questions to find out about each of the two additional budgets. One is available on-line at their website http://www.stanalliance.com/. He says another is with the County and that he would make it available to me. I offered to make a Public Information Request with the County but he said it wasn’t necessary. At first he said the third budget they have is quarterly. but then he said they change it monthly and that it wasn’t available on-line but that he would make it available to me too.
Then we discussed the OID donation. At first he stuck with the $10,000 claim. When I explained that wasn’t accurate he then claimed they donated $10,000 last year. That, I told him wasn’t accurate either. Then he said he thought about mentioning the Kaiser donation (where that came from I have no idea) and thought better of it. Kaiser hasn’t made up its mind for this year he finally acknowledged. I reminded him it had been several years since OID donated the claimed $10,000 and they had cut the number to $5,000 then to $2,000 last year. This year he requested a four year commitment but they declined. One year at $2,000 doesn’t add up to $10,000 any way you try to spin it.
So Director Van Groningen you owe me an apology for the claims you made against me. But I don’t expect one since we both know the kind of man you are. And if you want to donate $20,000 to the Alliance please do it from your personal account and not that of the ratepayers.
One thing I do want to clear up is that I misspoke when I addressed the Board when I said they had all voted to pay the Martino Graphics invoices. Director Byrd was the lone hold out and I didn’t get the opportunity to correct my mistake. So Director Byrd I apologize and will do so again at the next MID meeting I attend, when on the record, I can correct my mistake.