There will always be rocks in the road ahead of us. They will be stumbling blocks or stepping stones; it all depends on how you use them.
I presented myself at the NYWD office for the meeting I had requested with the General Manager. I had prepared a list of questions: Could you tell me a bit about yourself? Where did you go to college? What is your vision for NYWD? What is your biggest challenge as General Manager for NYWD? What do you want to achieve in 2019? and so on.
I received few direct answers, and oddly, he stated that he did not have a resume when I asked for a copy and refused to disclose where he went to college claiming that was private information. It was quite a puzzling reply to a perfectly normal employment question.
Fact: General Managers (GMs) are employees of any public agency and its Board (California Water Code §30575). GMs serve at the pleasure of the Board that hires them (California Water Code §30542). This means that I am now effectively one of the GMs bosses as he is accountable to the entire Board
When I ran my consulting company, my employees’ education was one of the reasons they were qualified for the jobs they were hired to do. I could recite where all of my employees went to school and what degrees they’d earned – if they had earned degrees – some were still-in-progress). So the non-answers provided by the GM had me scratching my head and I departed that meeting with more questions than I had arrived with…..
My company handed two manuals immediately to new employees at hiring. The manuals covered all the company policies and all the safety policies. Employees were required to sign acknowledgements that they had read, understood, and agreed to abide by all the policies. I had thought there would be a manual of NYWD policies that would be provided to a newly-elected Director. I was wrong.
At the meeting with the GM, I was handed two policies.
Two. One policy on NYWD Rules For the of Conduct of Its Meetings and one for Setting Agendas. The Setting Agendas policy was a single page. Clearly, I would easily be up-to-speed as a fully informed Director in no time at all!
At this same meeting, I was given paperwork to fill out. Directors receive a stipend and this is, in fact, covered in the California Water Code. I didn’t feel it right to be paid to do Public Service, particularly given that this is a very small agency. I told the GM I was refusing my salary and that the money should stay with the District. He said I needed to write a letter stating so.
I dutifully came back the following week, letter in hand. I handed my letter to the office staff. Somehow in the intervening week, I had misplaced my one–page “Setting the Agenda” Policy. I asked the office professionals if they could give me a new copy of the one-page policy. They did so. They asked if I wanted the Vision Insurance or the embroidered NYWD shirt? No thank you. Although, if they had magic shirts that make me skinny – I confess I would sign up for one of those. We all have our lines….
The next day, I received an email from the GM with a new Policy. This one was titled “Use of District Resources”. His email stated that only he can direct office staff in the use of their time and only he can direct them to do work. Apparently, my request for another copy of the one–page Setting the Agenda policy had put him off kilter. Or maybe I am not allowed to speak to office staff without permission from the GM? Maybe I am not supposed to bring paperwork back in person but am supposed to mail it in? It is unclear.
On the other hand at the November 30 meeting (subject of my previous blog post), the now former Director in his seven minute tirade, declared the office staff as “top notch!” saying “anything we (the Board) wanted, you got it for us“. Clearly, the previous Board was able to talk to office staff and ask for things.
The email from the GM contained Policy #3. I realized that my homework was far from complete, as there clearly were more than two polices in existence. Actually, I had suspected this would be the case since you can see on the NYWD website that there is at least an Irrigation Policy and a Vehicle Replacement Policy which hadn’t been sent to me. I composed an email and sent it along politely requesting ALL NYWD policies be sent to me at the same time so I could be ready for the Board meeting on January 31. I said please.
I received an email on January 4 with three policies, two of which had previously been sent. After much persistence on my end I finally received four more policies, four days later. I requested a copy of the Vehicle Use Policy and was told there is no policy for that.
During my initial (December 11) meeting with the GM, I requested a copy of the Personnel Policy. I never received it. On January 4, I requested the Personnel Policy again. I received no response, so I sent an email letting the GM know that I would be coming down in person to collect the policy. I also indicated – as I have each time – that I would run the copy machine myself thus requiring virtually no work on the part of office staff to make the copy.
So once again I sallied forth down to the District office on January 16 and was informed the GM was not in. I was given the message that the Personnel Policy was in the process of revision. There is a current policy in effect right now – today. Could I get a copy please? No. An email from the GM awaited my return home informing me the policy is under revision. That is not a reason to refuse to provide the current policy to me or any Director.
At the August 2018 NYWD board meeting, the GM publicly announced that the engineering plans for the Forbestown Ditch were complete. Meeting minutes reported and approved on September 27, 2018 read as follows (this is an exact copy of the minutes including the typos):
“Regarding the Forbestown pipeline project, the engineering plans and specks are completed. There has been discussion with the Yuba County Water Agency to provide funding for the project. The Agency has hired Sage Engineering to review the plans on their behalf. General Manager Maupin reported that he had talked to the State today and they are excited that we are ahead of schedule. It was recommended that we move ahead for a Construction Grant.” (you can download the Meeting Minutes here: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/ce9012_b91f8cacad174dae90911e860b3b83d7.pdf)
During my December 11, 2018 in-person meeting with the GM, I requested a copy of those engineering plans. He responded by saying that Yuba County Water Agency (YCWA) – who he identified as a potential funding partner – had the plans and they had hired Sage Engineering to review the plans. This was also stated four months earlier in the August 2018 meeting.
As a consultant who deals with engineering plans frequently, I am aware that there is never a single copy of those plans; further, in today’s world, the plans are not hard copy. Engineering plans are digital and typically done in AUTOCAD and then converted to a PDF. They of course, can be printed out.
I reiterated this to the GM and he told me he had no copies of the plan to give me.
The Board has not seen the plans and has certainly not approved the plans. Why would those plans be sent to a potential funding partner, before the Board has even seen them? If the Board and the public want revisions to those plans – and a potential funding partner has already agreed to fund based on the un-seen, unapproved plans – the funding partner could back out of funding the project. Further, the amount of time and money wasted by putting the cart before the horse means that NYWD will spend even more money. Lastly, the Forbestown Ditch affects SFWP as much as it does NYWD – they haven’t seen the plans either.
I left that meeting without the plans that I had requested. I indicated that I would review draft plans and was refused those as well. I wrote again to request the engineering plans twice more over the last month and have been refused those plans each time. So, despite the fact that the plans were publicly announced as complete in August 2018, and my multiple requests to review those plans since December 2018, the GM has steadfastly refused to provide those plans as well as other District policies to this new Director.
Have I mentioned that with working full time and raising three kids it took me 22 years to complete my college education? I am patient. I am persistent. I was elected. I will be a Voice for the People. This is my journey so far.