McCloud resident Diane Lowe during Monday night’s McCloud Community Services District meeting alleged that the board was in violation of the Brown Act when it approved a salary raise for district general manager Beth Steele in a closed session meeting held on Aug. 10.
Lowe asserted that the   board’s decision to  increase  Steele’s annual salary to $62,000 should not have been the subject of a closed session meeting. She cited the act itself, in which it states, “Closed session may not include a discussion of or action on proposed compensation except for a reduction of compensation that results from the imposition of discipline.”
Director Simons responded to Lowe’s assertions by saying that the board had made the motion in an open session that immediately followed the closed session in question. Lowe responded that the discussion was not included as an item agenda and that, generally speaking, the public’s right to comment on the matter was violated.
Director Kleinhans stated, “I think we should take a look and make sure we are doing this right,” referring specifically to the procedures which have, to date, been used to discuss and confirm salary increases.
Members of the public commented on Steele’s  raise, which Director Simmons referred to as “healthy,” though no specific numbers were referenced at Monday’s meeting.   
One resident told the board, “I don’t understand why you are giving pay raises... I don’t know where our funding is going to come from... The whole county is hurting.”
Several commenters emphasized that their opposition to the raise was not a personal indictment of Steele but rooted, instead, in concerns over the budget.
Simons noted that Steele started her position over a year ago at a low rate relative to what general managers are paid in other areas. “She has done a very good job, and the way we tell someone that is by giving them reasonable compensation.”
Board president Al Schoenstein reiterated that the raise was, indeed, factored into the budget.
The Brown Act, officially known as the Ralph M. Brown Act, was an act of the California State Legislature, authored by Assembly member Ralph M. Brown and passed in 1953, that guaranteed the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies. It regulates the conduct of governing bodies of all California public agencies, including counties, cities, schools, community college districts and, as in the case of unincorporated McCloud, service districts.
Non-Profit Water Expert
The primary piece of new business on the agenda was a presentation by Dan DeMoss, the Executive Director of the California Rural Water Association, a non-profit organization that provides onsite technical assistance and training for rural water and sewer systems.
In a detailed PowerPoint presentation, DeMoss outlined for the board and the public a list of suggestions and considerations based on his cursory assessment of the district’s current water distribution and sewer systems.  Much of his presentation addressed the board’s current interest in seeking grant funding for upgrades.
In his presentation, DeMoss referenced the growing body of regulations that surround water and sewer systems in the state.
When asked how a small district like McCloud is supposed to be able to make the necessary upgrades, DeMoss responded, “Welcome to the world of unfunded mandates.  They pass these laws and then it’s up to us to figure out (how to pay for them).”
DeMoss noted that in seeking grant funding, there are many key factors which dictate eligibility.  “You may not be eligible for a grant because you have such good water,” said DeMoss, referring the pristine nature of McCloud’s water. “The number one issue is human health,” said DeMoss, noting that the majority of available grants target this high priority. “Losing 60% of your water (through a poor distribution system) does not put you in danger,” he said.
DeMoss reminded the board that he is available to work with the board as it continues to  seek funding for its water and sewer systems. “I didn’t come here to scare you.  I came here to inform you,” he told the board.
In other matters, the board passed a motion 4-1 approving the hiring of a licensed operator.  The dissenting vote on the issue was   cast by Director Stewart who said, “I am not convinced that this is the right time to hire someone.”