Guest View: A response from STPUD’s hot seat
August 19, 2008
On Aug. 12, a public meeting was held at the South Tahoe Public Utility District. The meeting was supposed to be a “workshop” with items on the agenda like committee structure and operation, board goals, communications with board members, etc. But what transpired was something very different. One by one, the other four board members took turns attacking me for an hour and a half.
Adam Jensen, reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, was present at the meeting and reported the attacks in his article on Aug. 14 entitled As you can read in Jensen’s article, I was criticized for voting no on the rate increase, using the press to communicate with the public and my campaign practices in the 2007 elections.
I am the “black sheep board member” because in May, I voted no on the 4 percent rate increase, and I have been paying a heavy price ever since. The STPUD management and board do not take kindly to any board member breaking ranks and voting independently. Present at the meeting were General Manager Richard Solbrig and Executive Services Manager Kathy Sharp; board members Jim Jones, Eric Schafer, Mary Lou Mosbacher, Dale Rise and myself; and Jensen, the reporter.
This workshop was supposed to be used for official STPUD business and district business only, but instead, the time was totally wasted. This is a direct misuse of public funds, a misuse of public facilities and a misuse of staff time. Not one piece of district business was accomplished in this hour and a half. The two STPUD managers, Solbrig and Sharp, remained silent for the entire hour and a half while I defended myself. Solbrig or Sharp could have intervened at anytime by saying, “Stop, we are here for district business, not to criticize Director Claudio.”
Any one of the other board members could have stopped the inquisition, but they all failed. This is a betrayal of the public’s trust. As voters, we trusted them to act responsibly, and they let us down. As voting citizens, we can decide if their actions warrant their removal this fall. In November, there will be two seats up for re-election. We need good people to run for these seats ” people who will not perform like puppets for the STPUD management.
Where do we go from here? People I have talked to have said a referee of some sort is needed. I think we need to create an Oversight Committee. The Oversight Committee will make sure no more time and money is wasted on nondistrict garbage and political scheming. They will make sure agendas are followed and personal vendettas are excluded.
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I am working on a biosolids project with Greg Kester from the California Association of Sanitation Agencies using research from Utah State and the University of Washington to utilize a biosolids compost to help restore fire-ravaged lands in California, but I am having to spend more time defending myself from people with anger issues and political motives.
Through the Oversight Committee, I think we can get the STPUD management and board back on track. Once on track, we can start securing millions of dollars in grant money available for water conservation, fire protection, stormwater management and other programs. If we can get enough grant money, then next year’s rate increase may be 3 percent instead of 4 percent.
As for me, whom can I trust? Do I show up at the next STPUD workshop and risk another ambush? At the water district, I trust the plant operators, I trust the field operators, the engineers and the lab staff; these are men and women with ethical standards, and I feel they will do an excellent job if they are selected for the Oversight Committee.
The board and the STPUD management are supposed to have a “check and balance” relationship. If the board gets off-track, then the management brings them back, and vice versa. But now that both of them are off-track, an Oversight Committee is necessary. The cost for this Oversight Committee would be minimal, because these men and women are already on site and on the payroll. The committee itself could have eight to 10 members, but only two would be needed at each meeting. This Oversight Committee would not be permanent, and it would be dissolved as soon as things get back on track.
” Ernie Claudio is a member-of the board of directors for the-South Tahoe Public Utility District.
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