Friday, July 25, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Neeley running again for GDPUD

By
From page A1 | October 05, 2012 |

Bonnie Neeley

Running for a second term as a board member of the Georgetown Divide Public Utility District is Bonnie Neeley. A former contracting grant officer for UC Berkeley, she has lived in Georgetown for 13 years. Neeley said that prior to running for the board for the first time, she attended meetings for several years.

When asked why she was running again, Neeley said initially she didn’t plan to but changed her mind when she became concerned that if she or board member Norm Krizl weren’t reelected, board members McLane and Otermat would “have a quorum and within three months could dismantle quite a bit of the district.

“The biggest threat is the loss of really long-term knowledgeable staff,” she said. “Losing people who have been there a number of years and built up a tremendous amount of knowledge about the district and have been able to stretch our finances as far as they have.”

Neeley said McLane had previously made it clear that she wanted to fire General Manager Hank White. “She’s never made any bones of the fact that she wants to reduce salaries, wants to get rid of people, and she seems to think that there are any number of people in the community that could easily be general manager without spending that amount of money.”

Neeley thinks McLane’s grudge against the district goes back when, “for several years in a row, they (she and her husband) were stealing ditch water and got caught any number of times.

“I’m concerned that five good people have left and two more are leaving at the end of the year.” She noted that Mary Pat Frick, the district’s business finance manager, and Janice Fayter, Administrative Assistant II, will be leaving in December. Fayter’s letter of resignation stated a hostile work environment as the reason. Neeley said two other employees left for the same reason and she blames Otermat and McLane because of the sweeping statements they have made about freezing salaries and making reductions.

“It has made employees very nervous.”

Neeley said Frick’s leaving will be a big loss to the district. “CPAs have a very stringent code of ethics they adhere to and to have people pop up out of the audience and throw out stupid comments like  ‘Don’t you balance your checkbook?’ She has never been treated so badly. Her job is so complicated. She takes care of investing money. She was so good at it that one year before the housing bubble … she made $360,000 for the district by playing the CD market. Last year we were down to $50,000 in interest because of minimal interest paid … She’s very good at meeting all the reporting requirements as well.

“Hank worries about the staff all the time. In October he was eligible for a 2 percent increase that was in his contract, but he turned it down because employees hadn’t got an increase in four years and he felt he couldn’t take it when he couldn’t offer them anything.”

Clashes with Otermat

Neeley indicated that she views Kathy Otermat as more of a problem than McLane because she thinks she is dishonest and comes with “all kinds of baggage.” She said that before anyone even knew who she was, Otermat applied for a job with the district but wasn’t interviewed because her resume was so “squirrely.” According to Neeley, Otermat claimed to have worked for Apple but couldn’t remember the dates and implied that she graduated from Stanford University, but couldn’t remember that date either.

Neeley said that while Otermat frequently accuses the district of mismanagement, she is someone whose water bills were late three out of six times, her rent payments were routinely late when she had a business downtown, she still owes $50,000 on the county tax rolls to the state, and there are other incidents that cast doubt on her honesty.

Neeley said as a board member, Otermat campaigned against health benefits for the board but voted for them when the board voted to end them. She took files from the office while claiming to have never done so. During the effort to recall her, she and her supporters tried to intimidate those collecting signatures. And at the meeting where Otermat was removed as treasurer, she claimed she took a photograph of a check on Aug. 8 which later turned out to have cleared the bank a week earlier. “A few days later on her Website, Otermat claimed she was vindicated!” She just made it up!” said Neeley. “But her supporters don’t care.”

“(However) Otermat has brought up some legitimate concerns about the lack of policies,” said Neeley. She said if she and Krizl are reelected, “I hope we can find a way to work with Otermat and McLane by accepting some of their ideas and integrate some of their concerns to smooth things out.” Neeley still thinks that McLane could make a good director, in part because of her knowledge of the infrastructure of the district.

Accomplishments

Neeley said she feels she has accomplished several important objectives as a board member. She feels she has changed the atmosphere on the board to be more appreciative of the entire customer base and to make decisions that are fair to the customers as well as the district. In the past, decisions were too heavily weighed towards the district, she said, because of arrogance on the part of some board members.
She also pressured the board to reduce the budget in anticipation of revenue losses after the housing bubble burst. Forty percent of the district’s revenue comes from property taxes. Together with other board members, she eliminated all non-local travel, froze salaries, stopped new hires, canceled health benefits for board members, and voted for other cost-saving measures.

In regards to what she wants to accomplish, Neeley said she wants to work with the board and general manager to negotiate a smaller operating budget while at the same time meeting all parts of the district’s mission statement, infrastructure needs, and taking care of employees.

“Top management haven’t had an increase in four years and the administrative staff haven’t one for two years. We have to do something to recognize staff. But if the budget stays really flat or diminishing, we may have to take a hard look at benefits.”

Neeley is proud that the district continues to accomplish things. “Hank and Kelly (Assistant Operations Manager Kelly Shively) keep working hard at watching for grants, watching for opportunities, upgrading systems. But all of that takes time. The public doesn’t understand how much paperwork and administrative work comes with a water district. We have to meet all the requirements the big guys have to meet even though we’re only a $3 million a year entity.”

Neeley said in general people in the community are happy with the services provided by the district. “But to keep challenging people about their honesty and integrity just ruins things. The community is getting tired of the nastiness. People who’ve been around awhile are concerned when employees started leaving.”

I think the district is at a very dangerous place,” she said. “Some people won’t take any of this seriously. But we may go through some really horrible time and then the community will take it seriously.”

Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or dhodson@mtdemocrat.net. Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.

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