A policy governing employee use of district vehicles was the main topic of discussion at the Feb. 7 workshop of the Georgetown Divide Public Utility District’s Board of Directors.
The meeting began with Director Norm Krizl once again questioning why a workshop was being used to conduct business that belonged on the agenda of the regular board meeting. This was in reference to two resolutions before the board — one that designated the authorized signers on the district’s bank account and another governing a contract that allows the district to deposit money at El Dorado Savings Bank.
Director Maria Capraun responded by saying the resolutions should have been approved at the January board meeting. However, Director Ray Griffiths reminded everyone that new officers weren’t sworn in until the January meeting and he would have been uncomfortable approving a resolution where the name of the treasurer was left blank on the resolution.
Rather than wait for the board meeting on Tuesday, the board then moved ahead and approved the two resolutions on a unanimous vote with Director Kathy Otermat absent.
The next agenda item was a review of the changes made at the last workshop to the Request for Proposal for a new general counsel. However that was put off because Otermat had the only copy of the revised RFP. Instead it was due to be discussed at the board’s next regular meeting on Feb. 12.
The board then went on to discuss a proposed draft policy for district vehicle use. Capraun said she, Otermat, and Director Bonnie McLane had previously worked on a draft, “but that was before I became a board member,” said Capraun.
McLane commented that there had been previous issues regarding district vehicles, including a lack of signage on them, employees taking the vehicles home at night, and allegations of employees using them for personal business.
Griffiths said the district had already adopted resolutions governing district vehicle use and those should be cross-referenced in any new policy.
General Manager Hank White said the existing vehicle use policy was actually part of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with local union 39 and only three employees in the district were not covered by it, he being one of them. He said his use of a district vehicle is covered separately in his employment contract.
Krizl went on to suggest that the new draft policy either reference the existing one without adding anything new or use the language from the existing policy and plug it in to the new one.
At that a member of the audience commented that he saw an employee of the district pull up to Robinson’s to fill up a district vehicle. He alleged the employee filled up a personal vehicle at the same time on the district’s account.
That comment provoked a minor dustup as White took offense at the allegation and asked the resident to provide him with the date of the alleged offense so he could investigate it further. At that remark, McLane snapped at White saying, “You’re out-of-order. He’s a member of the public and had a right to make a comment.”
White explained that the district keeps detailed records of mileage and fueling at Robinson’s and staff randomly review the ledgers for anomalies or patterns that might suggest fraud. Those records are also provided to the auditors. White went on to say that only three employees on call are allowed to take a vehicle home during most months, but during water distribution season that number goes up to six.
Krizl expressed concern that an accusation had been made about the district not having a policy or procedures regarding vehicle use, but now they were finding out that there was one and the accusation was incorrect. “How do we now undo the stigma attached to the district?” he asked.
Capraun defended the draft policy, saying that “everything is all over the place and needs to be in one place.” Krizl countered saying that Capraun had not bothered to ask White if there was an existing policy before drafting a new one. Capraun agreed she hadn’t asked, but reiterated the need to have everything in one place. Pressing her, Krizl said that, “It’s been portrayed that we didn’t have one. But the first step would be to ask Hank rather than say there isn’t a policy and draft one.”
The discussion concluded with Capraun agreeing to add the language in the MOU into the draft policy.
The board then moved on to discussing a policy governing legal counsel and the auditor with most of it centering around access to the general counsel by individual board members and the general manager. The draft policy, as written, allows individual board members access to counsel for consultations, but not for legal opinions without concurrence by the board president.
However, Krizl objected to the wording, saying that no individual member of the board — even the board president — is authorized to spend money. He reminded everyone that board members have no individual authority and use of counsel is an expenditure.
Instead Krizl suggested the wording in the policy should reflect that counsel is only available to the board as a whole and the general manager. He also advised that further discussion of the policy take place with counsel present.
With no time left to discuss the third item on the agenda, a ditch maintenance policy, the board decided to carry that item over to the next workshop.
The other topic for the Feb. 14 workshop is customer service, including public information access, the district Website, office policies for customers, and field service policies for customers.
The last two board workshops will be held Feb. 21 and 28. The one on Feb. 21 will cover raw and treated water policies and the Feb. 28 workshop will cover accounting, credit card use, and employee policies.
All workshops are from 4 to 6 p.m. and are held at the district’s headquarters.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.