Utility district receives another financial award | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Utility district receives another financial award

Gregory Crofton

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily Tribune/ South Tahoe Public Utility District chief financial officer Rhonda McFarlane holds one of the many awards the district has garnered.

At a time when a California legislator is calling for better accountability in local government and special agencies, South Tahoe Public Utility District has received its fifth consecutive award for excellence in its financial reporting.

The district received the award for its 2004 annual financial report, which accounted for a $41 million budget.

It is the fifth time the California Society of Municipal Financial Officers has honored the district for its financial reporting, while a federal association called the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada has honored the district for its work eight years in a row.

“I consider it a special trust to work here at the district,” said Rhonda McFarlane, chief financial officer who, according to co-workers, has an “impeccable” work ethic. “I have a team here at the district that takes a lot of pride in their work. It’s all part of an effort to tell the story of the district and show accountability to the public.”

Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, is the legislator seeking ethics training and limits on compensation for board members of local governments and special districts.

Senate Bill 393 was first introduced last year. It is scheduled to be heard April 20 by the Senate Local Government Committee. The legislation came in response to a financial scandal at the Sacramento Suburban Water District.

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It involved members of its board mishandling more than $1 million on things like extravagant dinners, travel expenses and personal items, according to the California Water Law & Policy Reporter.

“The goal of the bill is to provide accountability and sunshine into the activities of special districts,” said Hallye Jordan, spokeswoman for Sen. Ortiz. “The legislation would strengthen accountability and audit function of special districts and increase the ability of the public to scrutinize the procedures of those districts.”

McFarlane said she thinks the legislation, if it becomes law, won’t solve financial improprieties by special district boards.

“You really can’t legislate integrity,” she said. “I know there have been other districts that have had some problems, that’s what I think Sen. Ortiz is trying to address. In some sense, it seems a bit onerous (to) address the sins of a few districts.”