The Height of Arrogance

Once again, the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of
Directors has set the standard for boneheaded arrogance in a public
agency. After asking its employees to forego raises, directors
turned around, and for the sixth straight year, awarded themselves
a raise
– no doubt based on merit.
Once again, the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors has set the standard for boneheaded arrogance in a public agency. After asking its employees to forego raises, directors turned around, and for the sixth straight year, awarded themselves a raise – no doubt based on merit.

The director’s management record has been stellar, of course. No doubt these accomplishments were considered when the merit review for the board came up:

The directors management record has been stellar, of course. No doubt the marvelous accomplishments outlined in a recent audit were considered in the board’s “merit review.”

The scathing audit heartily criticized the water district for fat employee salaries and benefit packages; the practice of diverting unused funds from under-budget projects to capital reserves; a poorly defined capital project budget (15 years, $1.68 billion); untrustworthy capital project cost estimates; and poor investing.

At one point the water district had nearly $500 million in the bank. Seriously, $500 million. And they couldn’t maximize their return for the sake of the ratepayers. Guess $500 million doesn’t carry the same kind of clout as it once did.

Now certainly that kind of management deserves a raise, right?

Oh, and don’t forget those water rate hikes that spout from district directors’ votes with the regularity of Old Faithful. Surely, the rate increases – appreciated by local farmers and residents alike – are warranted. The rates have been raised so often it’s tough to keep count. And if that weren’t enough, South County residents are regularly reminded about how lucky we are because we don’t pay the same rates as North County users.

Woe unto us who voted to disband the Gavilan Water District nearly two decades ago and merge with this inefficient, arrogant, bureaucratic monstrosity known as the SCVWD.

Our two area representatives, Rosemary Kamei, elected, and Sig Sanchez, appointed, voted against the raise. That’s nice. What we’d like to see is a motion from one of them to roll back the director salaries to 2000 rates and, when that fails, a public statement chastising the board for its arrogance and a pledge not to take a penny of this increase.

That would at least give water district employees and the public a straw of decency to grasp.

The SCVWD is the most comfortably arrogant public agency in Santa Clara Valley.

Directors seem to think they’re akin to members of the Board of Supervisors and should be getting far more compensation. They should not and they do not deserve any more than the $33,352 which marks the average that board members annually receive in stipends and medical benefits.

Recently, after the scathing audit, the editorial board called on the County Board of Supervisors and residents to consider sending voters a plan that would dissolve the Santa Clara Valley Water District and give the responsibility of water management to supervisors.

Now, given the latest show of arrogance, we believe the Santa Clara County Grand Jury should get involved and report to the public on whether that idea is feasible.

Mismanagement and arrogance are a dangerous combination in government, and the Grand Jury should bring its full investigative capabilities to bear on the district.

If director’s ignore serious deficiencies found in an audit, bludgeon employee morale and horde funds while raising rates, it’s time for a Grand Jury inquiry.

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