Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “MID Board”

Some Suggestions to the MID the Bee Finally Got Around to Liking

Two hangman's nooses and gallows behind the co...

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.

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MID’s Tim O’Laughlin Withholds Information on Public Information Request

By Emerson Drake

Apparently MID’s attorney feels he can get paid for doing half a job, okay maybe a third of his job.  In my opinion he’s bilking his employer by not completing his assignment properly.  He’s apparently churning for a second pay-day for doing the same work.

I made a Public Records Request at a recent Board meeting for the amounts of the falling water charges that are on our bills in the last 10 to 15 years.

Here is the request and the response.

October 26, 2012

To:

WesternPalms@aol.com (via Email Only)

Emerson Drake

Re: California Public Records Act Request

Dear Mr. Drake:

On October 16, 2012, Modesto Irrigation District received your Public Records Act

Request which was made verbally during the Board meeting, requesting the following

information:

“With regard to the falling water charge that’s on the bill, I would like to request

information regarding the amounts that we’ve been charged for the last 10 or 15 years and the

legality of it.”

In accordance with Government Code section 6253, MID will comply with your request

to the extent that the writings you have requested are not privileged or otherwise exempt from

production under the California Public Records Act, or other applicable law.

Response:

Below are the falling water charges for the last five years:

Falling Water  Charge

2008                                     2009                                2010                        2011

$5,681,470                   $7,063,695             $8,165,250          $10,158,720  

2012

$7,587,965

Should you have any questions regarding this matter, please do not hesitate to

contact this office at (209) 526-7388.

Sincerely,

Tim O’Laughlin

Interim General Counsel

The following link is the pdf response  from Tim O’Laughlin.

son_Drake_dated_October_26__2012_re_Falling_Water_Charge

“What’s on America’s Mind” Wednesday 7:00PM

 

Radio RED 104.9 FM

Tonight’s discussion includes:

Fireworks at the MID, who leaked MID’s confidential memo and why? Van Groningen Chastised by Board, alleged  Brown Act Violations, the need for roll call voting, and they’re finally replacing Tim O’Laughlin MID’s Million dollar man, Recalling five heroic men here in Modesto, Modesto’s home owners who kill cats,  SalidaMAC meeting last night and the low hanging fruit, Mitt Romney’s only endorsement for another candidate was Richard Mourdock GOP candidate for U.S.Senate who says no abortions for rape victims because God intended for it to happen.

This and more Wednesday night from 7:00 until 8:30 PM

Our call in number is 1-347-215-9414

104.9 FM K-GIG Salida is our flagship radio station where we can be heard throughout the week.

To hear us live or later from our archives http://www.blogtalkradio.com/centralvalleyhornet/2012/10/25/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake

Fireworks at the MID

By Emerson Drake

Maybe, just maybe, Tom Van Groningen’s reign of terror at the MID is coming to an end.  We watched for four years as Director Van Groningen and his cohorts in crime, bullied, out numbered, and out maneuvered former MID Director Mike Serpa at every turn.  They  even created a variety of rules which kept Director Serpa from getting access to information he needed to form sound decisions.  These have since become known as the Serpa rules.

Today Director Van Groningen was caught in his own trap.  He and Allen Short had gotten together to place an item on the agenda to discuss Proposition 26.  Directors Byrd and Blom questioned this item being placed on the agenda and when Van Groningen was challenged for his unilateral actions he replied he had followed the rules. Tim O’laughlin insinuated Van Groningen was correct. But Director Nick Blom had a copy of the Board rules which he read. These rules delineated Van Groningen had violated Board policy.

Tom, I feel like you’re handcuffing us…You’re the reason this Board can’t come together

When Director Van Groningen accepted responsibility. Director Byrd said it wasn’t good enough.  He pointed out Van Groningen had repeatedly broken policy guidelines and his continuing to accept the responsibility wasn’t getting anything done differently, especially in light of the almost 20 years Van Groningen has served on the MID Board.  He should have known better. After  a few minutes of discussion during which Tom Van Groningen was asked directly if he was the one who leaked the Board’s lawyer’s confidential memo to Judy Sly,  Van Groningen said no and suggested Ms. Sly be asked since she was in the back of the room.  Ms. Sly was asked and she replied “no comment.”

The memo is about the falling water charge on MID electric bills.  The timing is interesting since the memo was leaked immediately after the water sale to San Francisco went down to defeat. Ms. Sly has been using this confidential board memo as a basis of several articles in the Bee.  Remember Ms. Sly and the Bee came out in favor of the sale even BEFORE they had read the contract. Now she’s apparently using the memo in an attempt to further her crusade in favor of the sale.

So the issue came down to a vote.  The result was a  3-0 in favor of removing the item from the agenda. In all three votes which were eventually taken today, Directors Byrd, Blom, and Warda voted yes and Van Groningen and Wild  remained silent.

The second vote was regarding the time alloted to the public to speak.  In years past it had been a five-minute period but during the water sale, in order to quiet dissension,  the Board had voted to limit public comments to three minutes. Today that was reversed,  3-0,  with the caveat that if the line of speakers was too lengthy the time could be temporarily reduced by the Board President.

Then came the discussion regarding the make-up of the Water Advisory Committee.  At the last MID meeting Directors Glen Wild and Ton Van Groningen had proposed having 14 people on the committee.  This week Director’s Blom and Byrd, with the support of Paul Warda, proposed a much smaller committee. One member from the City of Modesto nominated by the City Council, one member nominated by the Farm Bureau, and one each from each of the Board’s Directors whom would reside in the Directors district. After a short conversation regarding a member from the Chamber of Commerce it was settled.  Again the vote was 3-0 in favor of the smaller 7 person committee.

So all in all, it is possible there is a light at the end of the MID tunnel, and, for the first time in a long time, it might not be an on-coming train.

MID Board Split on Public Comment Time and Everything Else

By Emerson Drake

With the temporary stoppage of the proposed water sale things have definitely quieted down at recent MID meetings. We’re back to fewer people attending and just a smattering of people actively commenting on current issues. At the latest meeting only four people stood up to comment during ” public input for the good of the district.”  Since the Board reduced the alloted amount of time from five minutes to three several months ago on the pretext of shortening waiting  lines and with only four people speaking (that is becoming the average post water sale) it seemed like an appropriate time for the rules to return back to normal.

Director Larry Byrd presented the board with a request to move the alloted time back to five minutes. But that was not to be. Since Director Warda was absent the board was down to just four members. Director Wild spoke against the idea saying he would like to discuss it more but then stayed quiet. After all, like his mentor Van Groningen, Wild prefers to violate Brown Act laws and discuss things with other board members away from public scrutiny. Please understand they like to talk not in “closed session” but in the backroom without witnesses. If they were to repeat anything from closed session they would be in violation of Board policy and could be censured.  But if a Director relates something that took place “behind the wall”,  ie: illegally, there isn’t anything Van Groningen and Wild can do.  Director Blom was willing to second the motion.  But seeing Directors Van Groningen and Warda were against a revision of the relatively new rule, no second was made.  That’s the way the MID works.  Rather than expose a rift and discuss their differences they choose to remain silent in front of the public. 

I later spoke to Director Wild regarding his comments. Concerning five-minute allotments he said “I’ve been keeping track of people who speak and during their first three minutes they are succinct and present themselves well. But during their last two minutes they berate the Board and I don’t like it.”  Personally, I always thought elected boards were supposed to reflect the will of the people, but when elected officials ignore the public’s input it only stands to reason some frustration might surface.

A current example might be a request for the 2013 budget PN# U00018 for $500,000 to replace the Board room’s audio and video equipment. All of this money for a fancy system and they still refuse create an archive for recordings of meetings or even save for more than 100 days the recorded discs of proceedings, let alone  broadcast their meetings on streaming video.   To this day they continue to destroy ALL electronic recordings of their meetings and refuse to consider approving the minutes of their meetings until AFTER the recordings have been destroyed.

In the next two years they want to spend $1.75 Million on a smart grid security system PN#U00513. These people are spending us into the poorhouse.  The IT department wants to spend over $4.1 Million in just the next two years. CAP-40 CAP is their designation for this.

I could go on about this but my point is their “wish list” was created when they thought they were going to be able to spend Millions of Dollars from the water sale  money they were telling the public was going to irrigation infrastructure.

Another ongoing concern is the money being funneled through Martino Graphics. Year to date Directors Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild have apparently signed what are called expense approvals in the amount of $21,000.  There is no purchase order assigned for these expenditures.  The account number they use is 312500 00.0 401 and the payment explanation is Board Development and Internal Communications.  These are NOT pre approved by the Board members.  Directors Van Groningen and Wild along with General Manager Allen Short have personally made these arrangements with Martino Graphics and Carol Whiteside.

Ms.Whiteside confirmed in an email to me on 10/10/12 she’s been the recipient of a total of $9,000 as partial fulfilment of her contract with Martino Graphics which she suspended in July.  Her work has never been brought to the Board and Tom Van Groningen says he has a copy of her work but no presentation has ever been made.  As a point of interest Ms. Whiteside was paid $1,500 directly to her for an earlier presentation to the Board and public.  Questions abound as to why Van Groningen and Wild have made these obviously deceptive arrangements and why was the ante upped and how do they account for the remaining $12,000?

In addition, we know $6,000 of these billings ($3,000 each ) have been pulled at successive meetings from the consent portion of the agenda. The question remains unanswered as to whether or not  the checks have been sent.

When I asked Director Van Groningen if the Board pre approved the expenses, his response was “they approved them when they voted in the consent Calender.”  In other words NO they didn’t. So what we are hearing is two members of the Board, outside the scope of the public, and their fellow Board members, can approve expenditures which would advance their positions on future votes.

It appears we won’t have any relief from this type of underhanded dealings until after the 2013 elections when Van Groningen and Wild have to stand in front of the public asking for their votes.

The Bee Editors Get it Right

Black & Veatch Corporation logo

Black & Veatch Corporation logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Dave Thomas

Good afternoon.  If you have not read today’s BEE Editorial page, be prepared for a rare surprise.

The BEE’s editorial opinion is right-on correct, and actually shows regard for the Citizens of our community.
You are thinking that I have lost my mind, right.  But no, the BEE pretty much gets it right.  They
printed a story yesterday which told us that our mayor, city staff and MID management were making
a deal with the fools who screwed up the Phase 2 water plant debacle.  But, they were doing the People’s
business, behind closed doors, and were not intending to tell us anything about the deal.  
Of course, we are quite used to these back door deals, done secretly, and we know that they will make a deal
that satisfies THEM, because they can raise our water, electricity and sewer rates any time they want, for as 
much as they want.  They make the deal, YOU and I PAY FOR IT.  
The BEE quotes the mayor as saying it will cost the ratepayers nothing.  That is the normal signal to us
that it is going to cost us A LOT!!  So, the opinion explains that the sophisticated editors understand that the city,
the MID and the people who can not build a water plant do not want anyone to know who gets zoomed on the
deal, because it is always US.  
BUT, the BEE opines that, “...the MID and city have a bigger responsibility to their constituents than to 
Black & Veatch.”  I know this is totally out of character from a paper whose primary goal
is to defend and protect government.  But you know that I always say, “Come to the table.  Come early or late,
but come to the table.”  We shall see if the BEE is serious about this concern for the People on this or other 
issues. 
 
I recommend, however, that we give the editors our kudos, and encourage them to continue with this attitude.
 
As ever, Dave

MID Board Votes 5-0 to Kill Water Sale With San Francisco

Seal of the City of San Francisco for fair use...

Seal of the City of San Francisco for fair use to illustrate the article about San Francisco, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Emerson Drake

After emerging from closed session Board President Tom Van Groningen made the following announcement.

Based on information received from the City and County of San Francisco, the MID Board of Directors directed staff and General Counsel to discontinue further negotiations regarding the proposed sale of water to the City and County of San Francisco.

We’ve filed a Public Information Request for SFPUC’s letter to MID but apparently they refused MID’s request to change the contract’s language regarding the right of first refusal and being first to receive the contracted amount during a drought.

I’ll write in more detail regarding today’s meeting later. 

Congratulations for all of those who stood their ground and fought against the proposed sale.  Well Done.

Reed Smith’s Thoughts about the Sen. Feinstein Letter

English: Dianne Feinstein http://bioguide.cong...

English: Dianne Feinstein http://bioguide.congress.gov/bioguide/photo/F/F000062.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

November 28, 2011

The Honorable Dianne Feinstein

United States Senate

Re: Water Transfer Discussions

Thank you for taking the time to meet with the group from Modesto Irrigation District and City and County of San Francisco. It was a pleasure to talk with you and we appreciate the opportunity to brief you on our discussions regarding a potential water transfer. I especially enjoyed viewing your wonderful painting of the Hetch Hetchy Valley. Thank you for that treat and for the signed photograph to commemorate our visit.

[ CODE for we will help tear down Hetch Hetchy and return it to a granite valley. ]

As we discussed, MID and San Francisco have developed some key points for a potential sale of Tuolumne River water that San Francisco could take through its existing Hetch Hetchy pipeline facilities, . . .

 [ NOT conserved water, Water not controlled by the CA WRCB ]

with the revenue for MID being used to finance necessary irrigation distribution infrastructure improvements . . .

[ NOT True.  Short told everybody, including YOU that it would be used for current obligations.  Now we know that his proposed 34% salary and retirement SPIKE are to be paid out if the water sale.]

 . . . that also would achieve system and water use efficiencies to produce sufficient water to serve San Francisco.

[ Here is the most disgusting statement in the document.  Allen Short works for the SFPUC, but MID rate payers foot the bill. ]

MID conducted a series of public outreach meetings . . .

[ NO HEARINGS HAVE BEEN HELD.  NOT ONE! ]

[ These were not designed to inform the public, they were to get the public to disclose their objections to what a stupid irrational idea this was and have the public tell Short what he needs to tell the rest of the public to con them. ]

. . . to provide information about the discussions with San Francisco, and to solicit as wide a variety of opinions and comments as possible.

[ What we find is the Allen Short has spent $640,000 paid by MID to Martino Associates, who pays Mike Lynch, who pays Rubin Villalobos, who pays other people to write OpEd’s for the Bee, or come to the microphone to promote this water sale.  The ONLY farmers who have supported this sale are Bill Lyons, Jr., Billy Lyons, Bob Ott, and his son, and one poor destitute share-crop farmer that farms 1,000 acres of Bill Lyons Jr.’s Mapes Ranch with free water. This is a mater of public record. ]

Attached are the final presentation materials used in those meetings.

[ I do not find the materials where Short claims he has bribed Senator Feinstein to personally interfere in the FERC relicensing of Don Pedro.  We intend to find out what specific contractual activities she agreed to do for 30,000 Acre Feet of out pre-1914 water rights? ]

The meetings were very well attended. The key issues raised, as anticipated, were protecting MID water rights, making certain its customers, including the City of Modesto, are served during dry periods, and ensuring there would be no significant impact to the River or the environment.

[ MID has completely failed to account for where the water to accomplish the needs.  There are NO ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP allocations in any of the pie charts.  What we do find is 40,000 AF given to Bill Lyons, Jr. FOR FREE. ]

We have developed a set of “frequently asked questions” and responses, which is also attached for your information.

[ Why were these FAQs full if fraudulent statements?  The MID Board has done nothing to provide truthful facts. ]

The next steps would be to complete negotiations with San Francisco and present the deal points to MID’s Board of Directors to consider initiating a small 2,200 acre foot transfer as well as a new environmental review process for a subsequent larger water transfer up to 25,000 acre-feet. We will certainly keep you apprised of any developments.

[These amounts are co-joined.  This is one deal, because the SFPUC has first right of refusal on ALL THE REST. ]

As always, if you have any questions or if we can provide additional background, please contact my office.

Allen Short General Manager

Copy: Michael Carlin

Here’s the Letter from Allen Short to Sen. Dianne Feinstein

MID’s general manager Allen Short wrote this back in November 2011. Is he negotiating or solidifying an agreement.  Either way, remember this as you listen to the Senator speak on Wednesday.

MIDShortFeinstein001

Is George Petrulakis a Paid Lobbyist / Lawyer for MID Here’s His Contract

By Emerson Drake

We expressed concerns regarding any meetings between the City of Modesto and MID without Rollie Stevens being present especially when it was made known MID refused to allow Stevens to attend any meetings between them and Modesto City fathers.  When Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh met with MID General Manager Allen Short with Attorney/Lobbyist George Petrulakis present we felt uncomfortable.  We were assured by the Mayor Petrulakis was just there as a facilitator. At the time, no one could prove Petrulakis was there for any other reason.  But now after you read the contract you’ll see he is being paid to influence Modesto’s elected officials to see things MID’s way.

You’ll be able to see how much Petrulakis is being paid by the hour and how much he’s received so far.

We’ll discuss MID’s choke hold on requested public information very soon, but for now read the contract and decide for yourself if this is the correct way to proceed.  If MID gets to have a paid attorney/lobbyist in the meetings shouldn’ t we?

Slegal12080115390

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