Many of the 30-plus members of the public who attended last Wednesday's special meeting of the McCloud Community Services District Board of Directors offered public comments, either about specific agenda items or during the public comment period near the end of the meeting.
Much of the talk centered around the District’s recent decision to hire a public works superintendent and its desire to vacate the lead man position.
District general manager Van Robinson announced during the meeting in Scout Hall that Wayne Grigsby had been selected to fill the position of public works superintendent, and he had started his new job the previous day.
A 33 year resident of McCloud with four years of experience as a utility worker for the District, Grigsby was one of three District employees to apply for the position, according to Robinson.
Grigsby said he grew up working in a construction company owned by his father then later ran his own business for 15 years.
“I’m well-versed in everything related to water, sewer, electrical and concrete,” Grigsby said.
Some citizens expressed concern that current lead man, Jack Fairchild, who has nearly a quarter century of service with the District, was not given the position.
The District’s previous decision to vacate the lead man position and the procedure the directors used to make the decision were also brought into question.
None of those who spoke expressed opposition to Grigsby, and some praised him. But Robinson was questioned as to why Grigsby was chosen over the lead man, who held a position above Grigsby in the District’s hierarchy of field workers.
Robinson said the decision was based on “qualifications, experience and the one best suited to fill the duties of the position.”
Brown Act violation charge
Both former District director Dorris Dragseth and Art Frolli, the business representative of Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3, charged the District with violating the Brown Act when it approved a motion to vacate the lead man position during the August, 11, 2010 board meeting.
The agenda for that meeting listed a discussion/action item “regarding authorizing the General Manager to fill the existing position of Public Works Superintendent, and to approve the proposed salary schedule.”
But the motion approved by the board on a 4-0 vote, with director Ken Anderson absent, included “the caveat that the lead man position be vacated when the Public Works Superintendent’s position is filled.”
Frolli had presented the District with a written demand that the board “cure or correct” the Brown Act violation, citing California Government Code Section 54954.2. He said decision to vacate the lead man position needed to be agendized.
Board president Al Schoenstein told Frolli that he didn't “necessarily agree” that the Brown Act had been violated. He said he believed that what the District did in amending the agenda item fell into “a gray area”?of the Brown Act.
Dragseth expressed appreciation for the “great job” Grigsby does for the District, but said, “this board needs to be legal.”
The Brown Act, which governs open meeting laws in California, states in section code 54954.2 that adequate notice must be given to the public regarding what board members intend to discuss or take action on.
“That gray area does not exist,” California Newspaper Publishers Association legal counsel Jim Ewert wrote in an email when asked for an opinion about the situation after the meeting. Ewert pointed to a state constitution article that allows for broad interpretations of statutes or court rules only if that interpretation “furthers the people’s right of access...”
For the board to say that a gray area exists in Brown Act section code 54954.2, Ewert said the District is arguing that it “should be interpreted broadly even though it limited the right of the public to access information about the board’s potential action – an interpretation the Constitution prohibits.”
Frolli, in a followup telephone interview, said the Union is “asking for a proper posting of the agenda item.”
He said, “They’re creating a situation that displaces someone from a job, a guy who has been there 25 years serving the community... and has had no disciplinary action taken against him... They have the right to take his title away, but we have the right to bargain the impacts of their decision.”
Robinson, who previously presented the District with his plan for moving towards a more cost-effective preventative maintenance system of operations, spoke at the meeting about why the decisions were made to fill the public works superintendent position and vacate the lead man.
Referring to pay scale and job responsibilities/certifications information included in the board packet for the meeting, he pointed to disparities that he considers to be “administratively alarming.”
He said the utility worker job description “has more responsibilities than the lead man, but the responsibilities haven't been recognized by the union.”
He said the lead man position is considered to be “a low level management position for providing oversight of the field staff,” but “the leadman position by job description is significantly inferior to the Public Works Superintendent and yet the pay scales are comparable.”
Frolli questioned why a list of those job descriptions was not also included in the packet and said he was “distressed” that Robinson was quoting from “job descriptions that haven't been approved or do not exist.”
Frolli pointed out that supervisory positions are normally paid at a higher rate than nonsupervisory positions.
In the fifth of five conclusions listed regarding the District's decision to change its staffing structure, Robinson wrote, “Assuming the (public works superintendent) would be hired at the entry level (42k per year) and the Leadman position is vacated or eliminated altogether, there would be an immediate saving of at least 13k per year assuming the current Leadman is at step 6 (55k per year).”
For now, Fairchild is continuing in the position of lead man. Resolution of the positions future will be determined during what Frolli described as a “meet and confer process”?between the District and the union.
Former District general manager Beth Steele expressed concern that hiring the public works superintendent before all the job descriptions have been looked at is “putting the horse before the cart.”
Directors Schoenstein and Tim Dickinson expressed support for Robinson’s vision for the District. “Van has been here seven months,” Dickinson said. “He spent four to five months evaluating … and determined money is being wasted... Any recommendation he has brought has been excellent. I support his effort of bringing a preventative maintenance system into the district.”
The changes proposed by Robinson, Dickinson said, “will cause some heartburn, but will make the operation more cost-effective and safer.”
After the meeting, Dickinson and Schoenstein, whose four-year terms on the board end this year, said they both waited until the final day to register for reelection and only did so because they want to help bring about the changes Robinson is promoting.
Because Schoenstein, Dickinson and Anderson were the only three candidates to register for the three board positions that were scheduled to be on the November ballot, there will be no election and they will hold their seats for another term.
Not everyone is feeling supportive of Robinson, who is working under an agreement that allows him to spend just 10 days each month in McCloud while working the rest of the month from his home in Las Vegas.
During public comments late in the meeting, resident Cherie Glynn said she was presenting a document that included 250 signatures of people who oppose keeping Robinson on as the general manager under that agreement.
Also during the meeting:
• Robinson reported on the recent water system violation and the corrective action the District took
He said the situation was not an emergency and the coliform bacteria that was found in samples are naturally present in the environment. But their presence in water samples are “an indicator that other, potentially-harmful bacteria may be present.”
He said the source of the coliform bacteria is not known, but the storage tanks were flushed and disinfected and followup sample tests came back negative for coliform bacteria and other potentially harmful bacteria and materials.
More low dose disinfecting is planned and will be reported in the District newsletter to keep the public informed, Robinson said.
• A second reading of a proposed policy for “Delinquency Management for the Water and Sewer Systems Improvement Project was approved by a vote of 4-0 after director Anne Simons left the meeting.