Opinion: Friday’s IVGID meeting resembled a sideshow | SierraSun.com

Opinion: Friday’s IVGID meeting resembled a sideshow

Ed Gurowitz
Special to the Bonanza

The IVGID Board of Trustees is elected on a staggered basis — three members in one election, two in the next. This is meant to ensure continuity and a number of trustees who have experience with how things work.

On the current Board there are three trustees who have been there for two years and two who were just elected and have been in office for about a month. Of those two, one has served on the Board before.

You'd think that system would avoid unnecessary mistakes, particularly where such important (and legally exposed) matters such as the Nevada Open Meeting Law are concerned.

In addition, the Board has an attorney in every meeting, and keeping the Board from OML violations is a big part of the attorney's job.

In last Friday's special meeting, the Board and its legal counsel showed that, no matter how many procedural safeguards you put in, well-meaning people will find a way to screw it up.

The special meeting was called because contracts needed to be approved for a million-dollar grant for stream work that will, as a result of the grant, cost the district nothing.

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Then the fun began. Chairman Jim Smith had evidently decided to take the opportunity of the special meeting to get some things in place that he felt were needed for Tuesday's strategic planning retreat.

These were agendized for action as two vague statements regarding hiring an Assistant General Manager and an Administrative Assistant to the Board. As noted in last week's Bonanza editorial, these included no job descriptions, salary ranges, rationale for the position to be created, etc.

Members of the public were disturbed by what appeared to be an attempt to take premature action on ill-formed plans and showed up at the 8:30 a.m. meeting in substantial numbers.

When the items came up on the agenda, what emerged was a motion that bore no substantive resemblance to what was on the published agenda – it was a motion to instruct the GM to create a framework for succession planning in time for Tuesday's retreat.

The motion, formally made by Chairman Smith, was presented by the Attorney, debated, and open to public comment, which was plentiful.

The main objections were not to the idea of succession planning, but to the vague and misleading communication before the meeting and especially to the un-noticed nature of the action that seemed about to be taken.

After an intervention by veteran attorney Geno Menchetti, the Board withdrew the motion and skipped the second agenda item, so sanity prevailed.

But why was this circus necessary at all? First of all, special meetings are for emergency purposes, and these personnel matters were in no way emergencies.

Second, it turns out that GM Pinkerton, as any good executive would, has been at work on succession planning for some time now.

Finally, why were the pre-meeting communications so vague and inaccurate? Why was the attorney even involved? Normally, a matter like this would be brought to the Board by the GM or the Director of HR.

Granted, Nevada's crazy regulations regarding discussion of personnel matters in public made advice on the OML desirable, but that's as far as the lawyers' involvement needed to go.

Several people stated their belief that the Board should micromanage the district staff. I for one could not disagree more. The most serious thinking about the role of public boards says that the board should set policy and limits (via the budget) and tell the GM what they expect to be accomplished.

The GM (and only the GM) is accountable to the Board for delivering the promised results on time and within budget. The staff is accountable to the GM, not to the Board, and the Board does not interfere with the job of management they hired the GM to do.

The Board can decide which side of this difference of opinion they will land on, but unless they do, we can expect more and more of the kind of sideshow we saw on Friday.

Ed Gurowitz is an Incline Village resident.