Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Van Groningen”

MID’s Layers of Deception – the Public Information Requests

Modesto Marathon  7983

By Emerson Drake

After Tuesday’s meeting I think some clarity needs to be added to the way MID spends our money.  The most used way is through the Purchase Order system. They put contracts out to bid and choose the lowest responsible bidder, at least in theory.  A lot of attention has been focused on purchase order #54981 which was effective from 7/19/2010 thru 12/31/2012, with a “not to exceed” cost of $450,000.  Yet this purchase order authorizations continued to come through signed by Allen Short and initialed by “J.W.” for payment. A minimum of $90,000 has been paid on this expired  Purchase Order numbe,r all containing the same generic billing reasons. No contracts for subcontractors have been made available and MID’s Joy Warren has yet to explain how this contract was part of the competitive bidding process.  These typically included:

Client Meeting/Planning Fees…..$5,000

Consulting…………………………$7,500

Communication services…………$3,500

Outreach/Transparency………….$5,000

According to MID, Martino Graphics uses four subcontractors to fulfill their contract. This Contract  Purchase Order is issued to provide professional services to Refocus and Enhance Public Education and Information Services per Board Resolution # 2010-35.  The following link is to the Board Resolution #2010-35  Slegal12110816440

The following is a response to several question in regard to Martino Graphics PO#54981.  It includes the pages of invoices, copies of authorizations, and checks (well at least the ones they sent us). It’s a lot of work/pages  so don’t hit print unless you mean it.

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 MID has consistently ignored  requests to release the total amount of money spent (including details) using PO#54981.

One of the reasons I question if all of the requested information is being supplied is that they have been charging consumers a falling water charge for over 20 years according to Van Groningen.  So I thought I would cut them a break and only ask for 10 to 15 years worth.  All they were willing to send were 5 years.  Here is the copy of the PIR. son_Drake_dated_October_26__2012_re_Falling_Water_Charge

Last week much of the conversation was about the “Serpa” rule.  Here is the link Slegal12110515150

It was gratifying to see Mike Serpa vindicated by the present MID Board and obviously showed the prejudice he was subject to by Van Groningen, O’Laughlin and Short.  I will take this moment to point out how the Bee’s Opinion Editor Judy Sly never spoke out against the treatment former City Councilman/MID Director Serpa endured. If fact, Ms. Sly helped the three amigo’s cause by heaping abuse on Mike in her Editorial Column as often as she could work it in.

Lets look at Carol Whiteside and her California Strategies  Company for a minute,  She received over $15,000 in payments $6,000 of it almost two months AFTER she terminated the contract.  This money was funneled through Martino Graphics WITHOUT a contract.  At least no contract with Martino Graphics (MG). Ms. Whiteside supposedly has a contract with MG but we aren’t privy to it. There also is no contract with MG since Short, Van Groningen, and Wild took it upon themselves to spend this money BEHIND the rest of the Boards back.

I believe Short, Van Groningen and Wild should be held personally liable for this money and should pay it back to the MID  ratepayers.

In my opinion it’s time not for an audit. but an investigation of how MID’s been spending our money.  It appears services for lobbyists have been procured by upper management  with the help of two Board Directors and I’m not sure they did it legally.

I also don’t believe MID should  financially support Allen Short’s new position with The San Joaquin Tributaries Authority.

You can hear more about MID and the City Council by checking out any of the “What’s on America’s Mind” broadcasts. Just click on the link and it will take you directly to the show archives for a listen.

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People – 1, MID – 0, in Best of 7

By Emerson Drake

After a hard-fought battle the people of Stanislaus County emerged victorious.  But we can’t let our guards down.  Modesto Irrigation District could decide to re-open the issue at any time and General Manager Allen Short is probably already exploring a way around the Board. 

                                               The Seventh Inning Stretch

The letter from the SFPUC  didn’t arrive in time for the public meeting.  It magically appeared during the closed session. Between the suspect timing of the letter’s arrival, and the realization that their terms had been rejected, three of the Directors had finally had enough. Larry Byrd, Nick Blom, and Paul Warda, to paraphrase, said enough was enough.  Directors Van Groningen and Wild went apoplectic!  They argued vehemently to bring one of the opposing Directors around to no avail.  And in a move of political butt-covering decided to make the vote unanimous.

Of course Dir. Van Groningen went from newspaper to newspaper making specious  claims of being unhappy with the contract, but what we need to remember is that he was ready to sign this terrible contract back in January. So his words, as far as I’m concerned, fall on deaf ears. 

Now it appears we get to see how the staff was divvying up the money before the water contract was signed, or maybe this is the kind of spending that got them so deep in the red.  As you’ll see, it really does pay to stay for the budget workshop.

                                               The Scouting Report

The budget workshop showed, at least in some people’s eyes,where they had intended to spend some of the water sale money.  Allen Short is requesting in the 2012 budget $30,000 dollars to spend for his outer office.  Eyes were raised when the figure was announced.  Allen said the money was going for two desks and a counter.  Pretty fancy desks and one heck of a counter.

So why should $210,000 for carpeting the second floor in the 2014 budget bother anyone?  At $61.76 per square yard installed we should be happy. Buying 3,400 yards I’m sure they got a discount.   The justification they used was “The carpet is difficult to clean and make presentable.” 

What’s the big deal about an $8,000 ice machine?  Just because the old one  still works and they’re keeping it for the employees to use, what’s the problem?  Must be nice to work for the ivory tower at the Taj Mahal.  You’d think since they didn’t have to make any concessions regarding their health insurance or to contribute to their retirement (except for new employees) they’d be happy, except of course for the new people who were thrown under the bus and will be required to help pay for both.

Did I mention the proposed management raises?  A Public Information Request came back saying they don’t have anything on paper regarding them.  Allegedly they want the Board to vote on unknown raises for unknown people.  Don’t get me wrong, Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild are ready to vote for them and are insisting if the rank and file gets a raise so does management. 

Could it be some of the members of  this Board are tired of being led around by the nose?  Allen Short doesn’t believe it yet or at least isn’t willing to admit it. Allen is spending money like he isn’t accountable and is readying his golden parachute.  And where does Attorney Tim O’Laughlin fit into all of this?  He’s still on schedule to make $ 1 Million from MID this year.  The ever churning lawyer keeps playing both ends against the middle and collecting from both as usual.  Remember how O’Laughlin told the Board they had nothing to worry about from the garbage burner lawsuit?  They didn’t. Endsley collected $1.2 Million and  O’Laughlin collected $97,000.  No worries, it came from the ratepayer’s pocket, not the Board’s.

The Modesto Irrigation District has played fast and loose with the Brown Act.  Dir. Van Groningen does what ever he wants and O’Laughlin stays quiet.  Unless he’s arguing with one of the Board members.  And O’Laughlin himself presides over the violations of the Public Information Act requests. Why he’s still there is beyond belief.

Since the Board meeting is tomorrow I want to mention Martino Graphics.  At last weeks meeting I specifically asked Dir. Van Groningen what the $3,000  to Martino Graphics was being spent on in last weeks warrants. He asked the staff but they stayed quiet (could they have been instructed to do so since Denise Ray, the head of Purchasing, was in the audience?)  They did place the question on this weeks agenda thanks to Directors Byrd and Warda (Van Groningen and Wild remained quiet).  Amazingly enough Van Groningen and Wild signed for the payment on September 4,2012.  A case of sudden amnesia?  I sent an email to the Board this morning and asked them to include three more Martino invoices in the discussion, two at $3,000 and one for $9,000.  I had already talked with Van Groningen during the Capital Budget workshop last week about this but felt it was important to document the request.

Did I mention all of the preceding in an attempt to document everything?Heck no I left out about half.  Did you know they want to spend more money for the Mountain House infrastructure?  But that’s enough for now.  It all goes to show we can’t let our guards down now.  Yes, we should enjoy the victory for now.  But until Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild are off the MID Board and we get some people who are concerned and won’t be led around be the nose by Short and aren’t intimidated by O’Laughlin, and don’t have the ability to subvert conscious thinking at the Bee (if indeed it ever existed), we as a community won’t be free of outrageous electrical rates or able to ensure our children’s future with plentiful clean water.

So to finish up  with the baseball metaphor I started with, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings and she’s not even at the ballpark yet.

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