No meeting was scheduled for December, but in late December the NYWD website advertised that the next board meeting would be held January 31, 2019. I received no email notification or phone call – I – like the public – found out by checking the website which I do on a daily basis.
I and some constituents noted that the date was not the fourth Thursday of the month which is the established date for board meetings, it was set for the fifth Thursday of the month. (We don’t often have five Thursdays in a month – so it was a standout.) It didn’t matter – the date was advertised in late December providing plenty of time for Board Directors and the public to make their plans and prepare.
Throughout the entire month of January, the date advertised on the website never changed and I even received an email from the GM stating that the Personnel Policy he had so far been refusing to provide to me, would be included in my board packet to be delivered January 25th in preparation for the January 31st meeting. I received this email from the GM on the 16th of January.
It was therefore odd that two days later on January 18th, I received an email announcing that the January 24th meeting had been cancelled. How can a meeting be cancelled for a date that had never been calendared? Further, the Regular Board Meeting that had been scheduled for January 31 since late December had been re-christened a “Special Meeting”.
The real life consequence of calling a meeting a “Special Meeting” is that the agenda and board packets are not required to be made public until 24 hours prior to the meeting. Regular meetings require a 72-hour advance notification. When I received the agenda, I observed that a Closed Session had been scheduled smack in the middle of the meeting. That made no sense to me; it is winter – why would a Closed Session be scheduled requiring the public to stay outside in the cold to wait for the meeting to resume?
I wrote to the GM and requested an explanation for the odd email and the change from a regular meeting to a “Special” meeting. I never received a response.
I arrived early for the meeting on January 31st and sat in my car for most of that time. Per the Brown Act – a gathering of a quorum (three or more) of the Directors is a violation of the Brown Act. Likewise, if Directors were to go in to confer with the GM prior to the meeting, that would also be a Brown Act violation as it would constitute a “Serial Meeting”, even if directors go in one or two at a time. I ensured that I did not conduct myself this way.
The meeting got under way at 4:02 pm. In my own experience attending these meetings for the last nine months – the average duration of each meeting was 27 minutes. If you ever attend other water districts’ meetings you would have a very different experience – for example, the last meeting I attended at South Feather Water and Power Agency lasted five hours. Granted, they are a much larger agency with much more business to attend to, but it is clear that they take the business seriously and also provide open opportunities for public input throughout every aspect of their meeting.
The Pledge of Allegiance was called followed by the Public Input session. This is where the public can speak on unagendized items that are of concern to them. Clarence Weckman spoke, going over his allotted three minutes, and seemed to be angry about a grass roots organization that had been instrumental in preventing a previous rate hike. I was unclear of the relevance of his comments.
Donna Corson spoke providing copies of four letters to the board and asking that the letters be entered into the minutes. The letters and points she brought up: 1. Thanking Congressman John Garamendi for being instrumental in getting our district a $75K grant; 2. Filing a formal complaint about Former Director Forguson’s behavior at the Nov. 30th meeting, noting that the Board did not stop it, and asking what actions are being taken to discipline and/or correct this? She further pointed out the inappropriateness of a Resolution to thank a Director who had behaved in such a manner and called for a public apology within 30 days; 3. Requested that all NYWD board packets be provided electronically to the public and/or placed on the website for downloading; 4. Requested that the public and Board personally review the engineering plans before they are sent to other agencies and requested an answer as to why the Board has not seen the engineering plans at all.
Another member of the public wished to speak and was told that they could not speak unless they had filled out a Speaker Request Form. Public Input lasted less than seven minutes as no other people were allowed to speak as they hadn’t previously filled out Speaker Request Forms.
Apparently – there is a policy around this which is now electronically available on the NYWD website and which I have provided below. On Page 5 Section 6.9 Public Participation: “Any person desiring to address the Board should present a Request to Speak Card to the Secretary prior to the agenda item on which the person wishes to speak.”
This language is unclear and confusing; based on my interpretation, each person would have to fill out a form for each agenda item for which they wish to speak. So assuming there are 10 items on the agenda, I believe that would mean each person who wished to speak on all 10 items, would have to fill out 10 different forms? Further, the language implies, that as long as you fill it out before an agenda item comes up, you are good to go? So it wouldn’t have to be filled out before the meeting started? Not to mention, that if 10 people filled out 10 forms, that would be 100 forms…..I have other questions about this requirement but I’ll leave it there for now…
Following Public Input came election of Board officers. Eric Hansard, last term’s VP, was elected President and I nominated Terry Brown as VP. Both persons were elected to those positions. Following the elections the Board called the Closed Session and the public was told to wait outside.
Stay tuned for Part II!