Water district wastes more taxpayer cash

The revelation that former Santa Clara Valley Water District
Directory Sahib

Cy

Mann spent more than $500 on water district-related clothing
weeks before his last meeting is disturbing.
Director rings up $574.95 worth of district apparel

The revelation that former Santa Clara Valley Water District Directory Sahib “Cy” Mann spent more than $500 on water district-related clothing weeks before his last meeting is disturbing. At a time when the district is asking for an almost 4 percent increase in water rates, the fact that each director has at their disposal $2,500 a year to spend on whatever he or she chooses, sends the wrong message to taxpayers.

Less than two weeks before Mann attended his last board meeting (Nov. 3, 2010), he purchased – with taxpayer money – $574.95 worth of district garb. Included in his shopping spree were 36 caps, two sweatshirts, two polo shirts, one vest, one “outback” hat and a stadium blanket.

Setting a lean and watchful example is up to directors

While on the board, Mann criticized others for wasteful spending and said he “truly enjoyed serving my constituents and the public,” but this personal, last-minute, taxpayer-funded shopping spree proves otherwise.

Now, the board took action to reduce some spending when they approved a revision to reduce a long history of being compensated to attend social luncheons and dinners.

Last Tuesday, under the direction of Director Linda LeZotte, the board amended the board governance policy to read “no member shall be compensated for attendance at community/social events as a guest of the district, where the district has purchased a table at said event.” Director Richard Santos was the single “no” vote.

Don Gage should make sure this stipend is eliminated

LeZotte was adamant; she and the rest of the board shouldn’t be paid by taxpayers to attend community events such as Chamber of Commerce dinners when water-related issues aren’t part of the schedule. Directors are paid $260.03 per meeting for up to 10 meetings per month; they also are eligible for health benefits.

Eliminating that perk is a good start. District 1 Director Don Gage, Gilroy’s former mayor, should take it a step further immediately. The $2,500 a year stipend should be eliminated. It’s not the money. The total for the board is just $17,500 a year, but when looking at the two actions side by side: raising rates versus a personal shopping spree, it’s all about the message to Santa Clara County residents.

Drops of water into the bucket add up. The water district needs to plug all its excessive leaks to regain the trust it has lost. While eliminating the stipend would be largely symbolic, for the water district it’s just what the doctor ordered.

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