My Turn: Rates are not the only raises the TDPUD approves
Special to the Sun
If you missed the Truckee Donner Public Unitlity District Board meeting March 17, you were not alone. The board convened and within minutes went into closed session. Those watching were advised that the closed session would last approximately two hours. After 40 minutes +/- they returned to the dais and quickly reaching and#8220;item 12,and#8221; the board approved a handsome raise and benefit package for the general manager. An $11,000 dollar raise this year in addition to retirement and bonuses. Over $20,000 plus retirement plus generous reimbursement in this calendar year alone! Anyone anticipating commenting on this would return only to find the opportunity lost.
The boardand#8217;s action in this matter was a manipulation of the and#8220;public processand#8221; and an affront to us rate payers. The agenda item was listed as an and#8220;extension of the General Managers contract,and#8221; yet this was an entirely new contract. There was public input, yet the board dismissed it and#8212; a letter from the community organization CATT representing more than 200 residents. In their letter, CATT requested an opportunity to have the board consider issues prior to approval. Instead, the board hurried the approval of this contract with little regard to concerns raised. The TDPUD board in its actions demonstrated a failure to provide fiscal responsibility to those who elected them. In a statement from the TDPUD (March 18 Sierra Sun), and#8220;There was no public input on this item.and#8221; As more people become aware of this, the community outrage will surely grow.
Board members approving this decision cited similar reasons in validating/rationalizing awarding Michael Holley this jackpot salary with a boondoggle contract during this time of unprecedented economic decline. The three main points they cited were: stability, consistency and performance.
Stability and#8212; in approving a five-year contract that had not been discussed in the districtand#8217;s (two-year) budget, the board cited having Mr. Holley stay as reason for this contract. Yet by increasing severance benefits to 12 months from three months, one could argue that it could create an incentive to leave.
Consistency and#8212; board President Jeff Bender cited this contract is consistent with other labor groups. Some of these groups have previously agreed to a wage and benefit and#8220;freezeand#8221; to and#8220;help us alland#8221; get through these tough times. When the district makes up salary and benefits to these groups, Mr. Holley will be entitled by this contract to get yet another raise.
Performance and#8212; the board indicated that Mr. Holley and#8220;has steppedand#8221; up to fill in for the vacant water manager position. Mr. Holleyand#8217;s new contract states he will work full time for the TDPUD including some duties of the water manager. Yet his contract gives him an annual bonus for doing these described duties.
What happened on March 17 is that the ratepayers-trusted board gave the GM the equivalent of any one of us winning the lottery. With all the bonuses, reimbursements, vacation time, sick days, administration days, contributions to retirement, the increase to 12 months severance and more, did our districtand#8217;s attorney read this contract?
I was told by the board president that only one member of the public was present. I would ask him and the board, is this the public process you truly believe is expected by those who elected you? If you think so, then shame on you. If you think this contract is fair to the ratepayers, then shame on you.
Mr. Holley, in his TDPUD and#8220;Bill Stufferand#8221; last month wrote, and#8220;Today more than ever; companies need to do more with less and the District will continue to look at ways to trim its budget.and#8221; Accepting this contract is doing more with less?
At the TDPUDand#8217;s April 7 board meeting, I presented these thoughts and that there maybe only one thing that they could do. The board would have to hold a special meeting before the 30-day deadline and rescind this ordinance and rehear it again this time with an open and transparent public process. Mr. Holleyand#8217;s contract could still be reapproved with or without modification by motion even in time for his July bonus if applicable.
I encourage everyone to find out more about this matter and let your voices be heard at the TDPUD.
I am confident that for those board members who voted to approve this contract, they will hear from the voters during the next elections.
I do offer my thanks to CATT for their letter in this matter on an issue that affects all of us.
Joshua Susman is a Truckee resident.