Last Tuesday’s board meeting of the Georgetown Divide Public Utility District promised to be a humdrum affair until Director Kathy Otermat circulated drafts of two new policies for review and comment.
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Brought up previously at workshops and other board meetings, the more contentious policy outlined how directors should conduct and communicate among themselves. A second policy set down rules of order for board and committee meetings.
A mix of the obvious, the banal and the cloying, the policy on personal conduct advised directors, among other things, to keep discussions focused on specific agenda items in order to make “wise decisions intended to solve problems.”
The policy went on to specify that during meetings, directors should participate while “demonstrating respect, kindness, consideration and courtesy to others. Responsiveness and attentive listening in communication is encouraged.”
Directors were also expected, both in meetings and in public, to “serve as a model of leadership and civility to the community (and) demonstrate honesty and integrity in every action and statement.”
“Belligerent comments” were to be forbidden along with “loud, uncivil tones (or) shouting or physical actions that could be construed as threatening.” Directors were also to avoid “personal comments that could offend other board members.” If accused of such, the director could be called upon to “justify or apologize for the language used.” The policy also cautioned directors to avoid “double talk, hidden agendas, backbiting and other negative forms of interaction.”
With the policy governing conduct drawing most of the negative comments, Director Maria Capraun suggested it be simplified and shortened, saying there was no need to specify what is meant by civility. “Most people know what it means,” she said.
Director Ray Griffiths agreed, saying the policy was too “voluminous.” However, Board President Bonnie McLane said the district had been sued in the past because of a lack of policies, though her main concern seemed to be that District Counsel Barbara Brenner stay within her retainer fee when reviewing the policies.
Speaking in favor of keeping the policies as they are was Otermat, who said it was important to keep the definition of civility in the policy as well as the part about avoiding physical actions that could be construed as threatening; “at the last board meeting, Director (Norm) Krizl was sta-a-a-aring at me,” she said, leaning across the table to glare at him.
Krizl responded by saying, “For the record, I think this will end up costing us hundreds if not thousands of dollars and it is a colossal waste of time and energy. All this stuff is either stuff our moms taught us to do or is already in the Utility Code. It’s all in place and we’re just reinventing the wheel and spending $200 to $300 an hour to do it. We’ve had this on the agenda four or five times and it just keeps going and going and going. It’s a waste of time, in my opinion.”
But this is how you create policies, insisted Capraun, saying they were just getting started.
“That’s fine,” said Krizl. “I won’t argue about it anymore. I’m not going to win the argument. You guys are going to do whatever the hell you want to do anyway.”
Otermat responded saying, “That’s why we need the policy. Because there are exaggerated untruthful statements that directors make,” adding it would only cost $150 to $175 an hour for legal review. “You can’t make statements with no consequences,” she continued. “That’s why we need a policy. The public needs to know we have a director who wants to still stand on history and tradition with no rules and no policies. I’m glad you clarified that. You’re right. You will not win this one. Your vote is insignificant now.”
Krizl laughed and asked, “How does that fit in with the code of conduct? And this from a director who sent an e-mail to the local paper calling me by name an ‘–hole.’”
With that, McLane gaveled the discussion to a close and directed counsel to review the draft policies and bring them back to the board at a future meeting.
The board has already adopted one part of the policy governing personal conduct and has since incorporated it into its meetings. For several months now, McLane has read a statement at the beginning of each meeting advising people how to address the board, which means using the director’s title and last name. In addition the public is warned that persistent disruptive conduct is grounds for “summary termination, by the president, of that person’s privilege of address.”
In other business, the board discussed a request from John and Alexandra Duarte to consolidate two irrigation services, one on their current property and the other on an adjacent property that the Duartes are in the process of purchasing. The matter was referred to counsel.
The next regular meeting of the board will be on Dec. 10, at 9 a.m. at district headquarters.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.