My Turn: TDPUD board acts responsibly | SierraSun.com

My Turn: TDPUD board acts responsibly

Jeff Bender
Special to the Sun

I have known Josh Susman for quite some time and was his appointee to the townand#8217;s planning commission. While I appreciate Mr. Susman voicing his concern regarding the recent TDPUD board approval of an employment contract for General Manager Michael Holley, I was quite surprised at the tone and inaccurate content of his My Turn and#8212; and#8220;Rates are not the only raises the TDPUD approves.and#8221;

Also, I cannot help but note at no time did Mr. Susman participate in the public comment process regarding this issue. He admittedly Knew the issue was being considered and voted on at the March 17, 2010, board meeting, yet failed to attend that meeting or provide any written or verbal comment in advance of any of the four separate meetings at which this item was discussed.

Mr. Susmanand#8217;s comments relate misconceptions and false allegations which I fear other members of the public may now share. I hope to correct those inaccuracies and set forth the true public process which occurred.

The boardand#8217;s action followed proper and#8220;public processand#8221; procedure over a period of two months and in no way and#8220;hurriedand#8221; this matter. A review of meeting agendas which are always posted on the TDPUDand#8217;s website clearly shows Mr. Holleyand#8217;s performance and contract negotiations were placed on the agenda for four separate meetings over a period of two months. Moreover, the Sierra Sun ran a prominent article prior to the March 17th meeting.

Additionally, I attended a CATT meeting prior to March 17th to speak on this item and answer any questions posed. Contrary to Mr. Susmanand#8217;s assertion, CATTand#8217;s letter to the Board (received only hours before the meeting) did not indicate or request and#8220;the Board consider issues.and#8221; That letter merely requested a delay and provided no direct feedback. CATTand#8217;s letter was also the only public comment received by the Board regarding this item.

I fail to see how the public posting of five separate items indicating this topic was being discussed at four separate board meetings, a local newspaper article and attending a meeting at CATTand#8217;s request in any way falls short of an open and timely public process.

The boardand#8217;s decision evidences not only fiscal responsibility to its ratepayers but also management responsibility.

Mr. Holley has saved the districtand#8217;s ratepayers more than $2.6 million since he started as general manager a little more than two years ago. These savings resulted in the district avoiding a significant increase in water and electrical rates. In addition, almost half of the increase in pay Mr. Holley will see is solely due to his assuming duties of the Water Utility Manager, which is saving the District more than $200,000 a year. If the position is filled in the future, that increase to Mr. Holley ceases to be paid. In short, the actual and#8220;raiseand#8221; Mr. Holley is getting equates to 6 percent of his salary which is the only base salary raise he has or will receive under the terms of the contract over a period of seven years of employment.

The severance pay referenced only results from a board-initiated action. If Mr. Holley leaves his position, he receives no severance. Mr. Susmanand#8217;s statements to the contrary are simply incorrect.

As for adoption by ordinance instead of motion, Mr. Susmanand#8217;s statements are not only false; his suggested action would be illegal. Attempting to approve the contract by motion instead of ordinance would violate the Public Utility Code under which we must operate. Thus, the board did and continues to adhere to the law.

In sum, the boardand#8217;s decision to renew the GMand#8217;s contract is an investment in the ongoing and future stability and performance of the district. We have seen incredible performance when measured against rates, operational efficiency and conservation from a highly qualified, civil and mechanical professional engineer and certified water operator. We have already received positive feedback on this issue from ratepayers who keep themselves very informed about the districtand#8217;s activities.

This board strives for an open and transparent public process, and a review of our work these last few years will support that claim. If Mr. Susman believes he has valuable and constructive input or feels he can help improve our public process, we welcome it, but we would prefer input before decisions are made, not after.

Jeff Bender is the president of the TDPUD Board of Directors, professional engineer and local business owner. He can be reached at jeff@becx.net or (530) 582-5578.