Utility district’s openness questioned as election season starts
July 22, 2009
Three seats on the South Tahoe Public Utility District Board are up for grabs in November, but one current board member expressed concerns about the district’s openness ahead of a Wednesday board workshop.
Board member Dale Rise said he was criticized by district staff for inviting prospective board candidates to Wednesday’s workshop, an event that is legally required to be open to the public.
“The public needs to know the agency is the farthest thing from being transparent you would ever want to see in your life,” Rise said Tuesday.
At the workshop, the board is expected to discuss upcoming water meter requirements in the district, ways to save money, solar energy, the district’s use of consultants and a request for proposals for new legal representation.
In an e-mail, Rise was told that workshops are mostly intended for the board to have a discussion “amongst themselves.”
Although Runnels Automotive owner John Runnels and incumbents Jim Jones, Eric Schafer and Ernie Claudio are the only people who have filed candidacy declarations so far, Rise says several other people have expressed an interest in running for board.
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Board members serve four year terms. The election is Nov. 3. In order to run, candidates must submit a candidacy declaration with El Dorado County by 5 p.m. on Aug. 7.
Department spokesman Dennis Cocking defended the transparency of the agency on Tuesday, saying the district has always met legal requirements for holding public meetings.
Wednesday’s workshop is primarily a “brain-storming” session, but any member of the public is welcome at the workshop, Cocking said.
Cocking also noted that as long as the toilets flush and faucets turn on, the public interest in water district board meetings is generally pretty low.
“If the district was trying to be secretive about it, they would hold it at night at somebody’s house or something,” Cocking said.
The workshop will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the District Board Room located at 1275 Meadow Crest Drive.