mountainecho.com

August 27, 2012

CSD Brown Act Violations Injure Credibility

Filed under: Uncategorized — waltblog @ 6:23 pm

FALL RIVER MILLS – Wanton and continuous violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act by members of the board of directors of the Fall River Valley Community Services District (CSD), shows a total disregard of doing the public’s business in public in spite of claims to the contrary.

The Board of Directors either violated the Ralph M. Brown Act during last week’s Fall River Valley Community Services District (CSD) or two of the three members present simply let the board chair do as she wanted without, reaction, discussion or vote.

The first item on the agenda was “Appointment of Board Member.”

Chair Sandi Jensen stopped any discussion from the audience by flatly stating that the board had decided to hold the position open until after the election and not to make an appointment.

A number of board candidates for election were in the audience, but only one person, candidate Kathy Ontano, had submitted a letter to fill the vacancy as required by district policy. Objections from Ontano and a second candidate Diana Rogers, were shut off by Jensen. Both Ontano and Rogers have been vocal and have questioned a number of items on recent CSD agendas.

Editorial

Filed under: Uncategorized — waltblog @ 6:14 pm

Brown Act violations continue to tarnish and bring into question not only a purported desire of “transparency” by the board of directors of the Fall River Valley Community Services District but the motives of the board as well.
In July the District Manager took a questionable step and adjusted the posted agenda, taking consideration of giving him an extra week of vacation in lieu of a raise out of open session into closed in an obvious attempt to thwart transparency. Putting that type of a personnel matter into closed session is a direct violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act.
Additionally, he put a discussion with a hydro consultant, Kelly Sackheim, into the same closed session and listed his authority to do so as real estate, again in direct violation of the Brown Act. The law specifically states that Real Estate matters may be discussed between the board and their real estate negotiator only. The board chose to listen to a presentation regarding a hydro project, not directly a real estate project with a consultant.
A third apparent violation occurred at last week’s board meeting when Board Chair Sandi Jensen said “They” (the board) had decided not to appoint anyone to fill the vacancy left with the resignation of board member Sharon Hanson. The other two board members present, Sky Snyder and Paulette Gooch, didn’t indicate that they had not been consulted. That action left the impression that the board had a serial meeting and made a decision which should have been made in a regularly agendized meeting.
Those actions lead to the question – Are any of those violations important. The answer is a resounding yes and it has had ramifications.
1. Van den Bergh’s vacation in lieu of a raise comes at a time when the district is in the process of trying to increase its rates. The lack of transparency made the motivation, ramifications, and potential benefit or cost to the district impossible for the public to evaluate. The law states “Closed sessions of a legislative body of a local agency, as permitted in this section, shall be for the purpose of reviewing its position and instruction to the local agency’s designated representatives. In other words “The body may not negotiate directly with an affected employee in closed session.”
2. The board’s lack of transparency, discussing a “real estate” matter with a consultant who wasn’t supposed to be in a “real estate meeting” ended up leaving the district wide open to criticism when two candidates for the board talked with the consultant at another affair, and then confronted the manager and board with their interpretation of what the consultant was saying about a proposed project. The law states “a legislative body of a local agency may hold a closed session with its NEGOTIATOR prior to the purchase, sale, exchange, or lease of real property by or for the local agency to grant authority to is negotiator regarding the price terms of payment for purchase, sale, exchange, or lease.” One of the conditions is that negotiations must be underway. Also, regarding their allowing the consultant into the closed session, according to 46 Ops. Cal. Atty. Gen 34 (1965:) “Closed sessions cannot be qualified by the selective invitation of certain persons into the discussion while excluding the general public.”
3. The lack of transparency in handling the board’s options in filling the vacancy, and the board chair’s explanation that the board didn’t want to give one candidate a perceived advantage when they had so many candidates was also controversial, leaving the board open to charges that they didn’t want to appoint the one and only candidate that took the time to apply for the vacancy because they didn’t like her. The Brown Act specifically prohibits serial meetings. “any use of direct communication, personal intermediaries or technological devices that is employed by a majority of the members of the legislative body to develop a collective concurrence as to action to be taken on an item by the members of the legislative body is prohibited.
4. Either they had a serial meeting or Jensen took it upon herself to speak for the entire board as “we” and the other two board members present didn’t have any interest in the proceedings. Not nice either way.
The Ralph M. Brown Act is law. It is there for a purpose. It is there because individual managers and boards took advantage of situations and did things in private that were not in the best interests of the people they were sworn to help. The law may hamper expediency, but it also hampers individuals in public positions who want to do what they want to do without anyone knowing about it. That type of behavior is criminal.
Members of boards who don’t want to do the public’s business in public have no business being on the board.
Everyone makes mistakes and nearly every board in the Intermountain Area has screwed up at one time or another, but the only board that consistently violates the Brown Act cannot claim that they have any intention of being open and transparent or that they are concerned enough to take the law seriously. In that case, those board members need to be replaced with ones who will be concerned, will take the law seriously, and will take the time to learn the law and look an item up when it doesn’t sound transparent. They need to remember that the Brown Act was written to assure the public’s right to know and the authors weren’t particularly concerned about its convenience to the governmental agencies covered by it.

Mayers Can’t Handle Adin Ambulance Unless Big Valley Votes in an Assessment Tax

Filed under: Uncategorized — waltblog @ 4:48 pm

BURNEY – Mayers CEO Matt Rees said he and hospital CFO Travis Lakey attended the public meeting in Adin regarding the future of the Adin Ambulance. He said the Big Valley area stands to lose its Modoc Medical Center Ambulance because Modoc Medical Center couldn’t continue to handle the cost of staffing and operating the service out of Adin.
He said Mayers would have the same problems. The only solution he saw, if they wanted to maintain an ambulance in Big Valley was for the Big Valley citizens to vote to tax themselves enough to cover the expenses. He said the Big Valley citizens are using the Mayers facility and services. The hospital is currently working on a possible annexation of the Big Valley area which would generate tax income for the district, without raising anyone’s property taxes, and cover some of the services the hospital now provides those citizens which the hospital isn’t reimbursed for. However revenue generated from annexation would not begin to cover of staffing an ambulance in the Valley.

County Supes Vote Stop Possible Raid on Windmill Fund

Filed under: Uncategorized — waltblog @ 4:47 pm

REDDING – The Burney wind mill funds were not actually threatened by a proposed county project. Shasta County Executive Officer Larry Lees said he instructed staff to draw up a list of extreme cuts or modifications to the county’s budget to pay for a new jail if the Board of Supervisors approved the project.
At last week’s Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board unanimously rejected a proposal dependent upon accepting the state’s jail funding, as part of Assembly Bill 900 Phase II. The vote was needed now to continue the process for receiving a state grant of $33 million for a new detention facility. If the board approved the motion, the county needed to come up with $300,000 to complete the California Environmental Quality Act requirements and hire an architect before March 2013.

CSD Brown Act Violations Injure Credibility

Filed under: Uncategorized — waltblog @ 4:46 pm

FALL RIVER MILLS – Wanton and continuous violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act by members of the board of directors of the Fall River Valley Community Services District (CSD), shows a total disregard of doing the public’s business in public in spite of claims to the contrary.
The Board of Directors either violated the Ralph M. Brown Act during last week’s Fall River Valley Community Services District (CSD) or two of the three members present simply let the board chair do as she wanted without, reaction, discussion or vote.
The first item on the agenda was “Appointment of Board Member.”
Chair Sandi Jensen stopped any discussion from the audience by flatly stating that the board had decided to hold the position open until after the election and not to make an appointment.
A number of board candidates for election were in the audience, but only one person, candidate Kathy Ontano, had submitted a letter to fill the vacancy as required by district policy. Objections from Ontano and a second candidate Diana Rogers, were shut off by Jensen. Both Ontano and Rogers have been vocal and have questioned a number of items on recent CSD agendas.

August 20, 2012

Old Station Shielded from Fire -Park Superintendent Apologizes

Filed under: Uncategorized — waltblog @ 4:29 pm

Despite a power outage and the threat of a large fire developing near Manton in Tehama County, an update meeting on the Reading Fire was attended by approximately 80 people on August 18 at 6 p.m., including representatives from Tom McClintock’s office and Shasta County Supervisor Glenn Hawes.
The Incident Commander, Jeanne Pincha-Tully, much to the relief of Old Station residents, informed the group that containment has reached approximately 51% and the west and northwest portions of the fire that had threatened the Big Springs subdivision has been fully contained.
The southern edge of the fire in the Park is well contained. The eastern portion of the fire is not yet fully contained; however, two large air tanker drops and hot shot crews working on the rougher terrain in that area are making progress.
The fire within the Park is actually a mosaic burn, meaning that there are sections where the fire burned very hot and little is left, while other sections have green trees where the fire crept through the undergrowth.
Once fully contained, the crews will be working through the area, placing water bars to prevent erosion in the winter/spring as well as putting out any hot spots.
A question from the audience addressed when the public would be allowed access into the forest and burned areas of the Park. The response was that it would probably take at least some weeks before those roads would open.

Ronquist and Hamilton Fill Slots on School Board

Filed under: Uncategorized — waltblog @ 4:29 pm

The Fall River Joint Unified School District has two seats up for reelection and only two candidates. Incumbent Cindy Ronquist and new candidate, John Hamilton.
Hamilton says he decided to run for the school board because he would like to learn how the infrastructure of the school works and to hopefully give some new ideas and perspective to the school board.
“I know that we are facing some really difficult financial times and I am capable of thinking outside the box to help our school’s and our students.”
As far as qualifications, Hamilton says, “I think that the best qualification I can possess is to have the student’s best interests at heart. I have spent the last 12 years as the President of the FRHS Booster’s and I would like to step up to the next level for our students.”

A Look at Mayers and CSD Board Candidates

Filed under: Uncategorized — waltblog @ 4:28 pm

Local boards will see new faces after the November election.
Some incumbents have chosen to not seek reelection and some boards will not need an election to seat new members.
There are however, two local boards which will require the vote of the people to place the new directors.
Mayers Memorial Hospital District and the Fall River Valley Community Services District both have a list of candidates slated to fill the seats.

Reading, Ponderosa, Buckhorn Ranch and Hatchet Fires Wrap Area in Heavy Smoke

Filed under: Uncategorized — waltblog @ 4:27 pm

Fires in the area destroyed any hint of healthy air quality throughout the Intermountain Area, but little property damage in the immediate area.
Thunder storms caused an estimated 15-20 small fires Friday night and Saturday morning. All but two were out by Sunday night. The other two, a two acre and a 12 acre fire on Hatchet Mountain which were considered contained by Sunday evening.
Information was not immediately available on a third fire, this one in the vicinity of Summit Lake that became clearly visible Sunday.
In the meantime, the Reading Fire which escaped Lassen Park and threatened Old Station, was considered 51% contained Sunday night with full containment on the Old Station side of the fire.

Editorial

Filed under: Uncategorized — waltblog @ 4:26 pm

The Fall River Valley Community Services District held rate meetings for public input, the last of which was Wednesday evening.
Personally, I have no problem with the rate increase for water. Yes, some people will have problems paying the increase, but people have to realize that the Community Services District’s bills and costs have gone up just like it has for people they serve. If people want water and sewage service the district has got to be able to provide it.
Many of the customers will see lower bills for the first year. Then it will go up over the next two years in an overall amount that will cost them 20% more than they are currently paying.
I do find it rather hard to swallow a rate increase when the district does things like pay a bill to an attorney in the amount of $1,886.50 so they can argue with LAFCO. Especially when they said they weren’t going to take money out of the district’s funds for his expense.
Be that as it may, I do have major objections to the way they plan to compute the sewer charge.
If my understanding is correct, and I believe it is, the sewage charge that customers are going to be charged will be based on the amount of water used, computed monthly.
That means that customers will find themselves paying a lot more for sewer in the summer months when they traditionally water their lawns, flowers and gardens (not their sewers). They won’t be using the sewer any more, they’ll just pay a lot more for the privilege.
Districts like Burney which also compute sewer charges based on water usage have taken the time to figure out a way to do it which won’t screw their customers.
Districts like Burney looked at it, discussed it at length and determined which month of the year was the one which reflected the least outdoor water usage, thus eliminating charging their customers for a service they weren’t providing.
Burney’s is computed on either January or February, when they can be fairly certain that their customers aren’t watering yards and washing cars, but being charged strictly for cooking, bathing, washing dishes etc. That figure is the best estimate they can generate that will reflect what goes into the sewer. They measure it once each year and adjust it accordingly.
To charge them monthly for watering their yard and plants is double jeopardy. The customer gets charged for the water on the front end and then gets hammered on the back end when it doesn’t impact the sewers.
I don’t care if the process has to go back to committee or through the hearing process 10 times. Simp[y because it wasn’t right the first time doesn’t mean the customers should be stuck with it. That was the general idea of having public hearings in the first place.

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