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Top 10 stories of 2013: 2. GDPUD: Dysfunctional board catches a break

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From page A9 | January 06, 2014 | 21 Comments

Conditions at GDPUD were rocky from the start in 2013 as the new majority on the board — Directors Bonnie McLane, Kathy Otermat and Maria Capraun — continued their staff bashing that ended in the retirement or resignation of many of the district’s professional staff in 2012.

In 2013, their campaign reached a big target with the departure of General Manager Hank White.

Fed up with the ongoing criticism and micromanaging by the “gang of three” and their cohorts, White went out on leave in February. In March, with White still out on leave, Kelly Shively, assistant operations manager, was named interim general manager.

Shively’s appointment didn’t prevent McLane, Otermat and Capraun from continuing to act as de facto general manager, which resulted in countless extra board meetings, some lasting as long as nine hours; delays in decision-making; more staff exits and behavior that prompted accusations of illegality from past and present board members as well as residents.

In June, the Foresthill Public Utility District announced that White was hired as its general manager. In a phone interview, White said he was leaving because he was tired of the personal attacks and how certain board members had made GDPUD an “intolerable place to work.”

As the bad publicity mounted, at one point McLane, Otermat and Capraun discussed spending $10,000 to improve their public image even as they continued to complain how the district frivolously spent money under White. However, with little enthusiasm for the idea, even from their supporters, that notion died.

With the district in danger of imploding, in July the board hired retired state engineer, Gary Hoffmann, as interim general manager. With no sword of Damocles over his head, Hoffmann was able to bring order and professionalism back to GDPUD.

Later, the board also hired Barbara Brenner, from the firm of Churchwell White, as the district’s new counsel, as well as a new office manager and additional office staff.

Aside from the ongoing uproar over staffing, the subject that popped up throughout the year was what to do about the retrofit of the Auburn Lake Trails Water Treatment Plant (ALT).

Concerned with the cost of the project and how to finance it, the board delayed making a decision in February when White requested the board approve releasing the ALT plans for bid. Directors delayed that decision three more times in March because of White’s absence. In April they delayed making a decision again as they searched for financing. In May, the board finally voted to put the project out to bid.

Meanwhile, searching for a cheaper solution to the plant, the board brought in Psomas, the engineering firm that designed the plans for the plant, and asked for a presentation on value engineering. But not entirely sold on that approach, in June the board took a different tack and hired consulting engineer Webb Owen to evaluate the design plans for the plant.

In August, the bids for the plant were reported with the low bid coming in at $10.8 million. That bid left the district several million short of its previously arranged financing. Owen also presented his report, which included changes to the plant that he said could potentially shave about 10 percent off its cost. In November, after consulting with staff internally and with Psomas, Hoffmann proposed further design changes to the plant that he estimated would save the district $1.05 million. The previous bids were allowed to expire and instead Psomas was hired to redesign the plant with the new plans expected to be completed by February 2014.

Hoffman also submitted an application to the state for a loan to cover the entire cost of construction along with design and project management costs. That application is still pending with the state.

Along with ALT, one of the prevailing themes of the past year was the quest by McLane, Otermat and Capraun for more policies to govern the agency, staff and the board, this despite repeated assurances that GDPUD already had plenty of policies in the form of the public utility code, resolutions, memorandums of understanding, ordinances and internal policies and procedures.

Unconvinced, in January the board decided to hold weekly workshops to discuss a series of agenda items, including new policies, job descriptions, organization charts and agenda items it didn’t have time to take up during regular board meetings.

In April, the board voted to send 21 policies to counsel for review despite criticism from Directors Norm Krizl and Ray Griffiths and members of the public, who complained of their redundancy and the legal costs associated with reviewing them.

In November, policy making reached into hitherto new areas as Otermat circulated draft policies aimed at behavior control which were needed, according to Otermat, because at one meeting, another board member “sta-a-a-a-red” at her.

2013 was full of memorable quotes from GDPUD board members that hint at some of the issues that arose during the year.

“We were voted on by the people, so we hire who works for the people,” said President McLane when Director Griffiths questioned the need to hire a full-time board clerk reporting directly to the board.

“So I can’t review the contract before it’s signed? You’re denying a board member the right to review a contract for the general manager who is going to work for all five of us before it’s signed?” Director Krizl asked of President McLane.

“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,” Director Otermat to Director Krizl when he questioned the need for and the cost of the new policies she was proposing.

“The district needs to replace the dirt road it had been on with a paved road,” said Capraun in explaining why additional policies were needed.

“You need a timeout,” President McLane said to Director Krizl during a heated discussion. “Thanks mom,” he replied.

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

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 21 comments

  • EvelynJanuary 05, 2014 - 2:59 pm

    ahhhh . . .

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  • Dan SilvaJanuary 07, 2014 - 9:53 am

    Wow - sounds like Dawn has been drinking from Norm Krizl's special wine. Looks like I'll have to go back to the audio and compile the unbiased view of GDPUD in 2013, starting with the "gang" got an early Christmas present by having the incompetent, arrogant, dishonest, overpaid GM Hank White voluntarily leave as he no longer had a majority to cover his arse. White was being paid $250K per year compensation and benefits and couldn't manage his way out of a paper bag as was confirmed by the interim GM who provided clear information on what White did NOT do re: requirements for the new Auburn Lake treatment plant. A good 9 years was wasted by Hank since the original compliance order of 2004. Looks like i have my work cut out for me to balance the incredibly slanted article by Hodson.

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  • R. Keegan, Pilot HillJanuary 07, 2014 - 10:16 am

    I also find it very compelling that during Norm Krizl's 10 years as a Director he was complacent about not having any District policies (really? a District with a $4Million budget and no Board or District policies?) and then voted no against any policy in 2013. An important fact omitted by Ms. Hodson. I believe Krizl and prior boards used the "we run just fine on history and tradition" to run the district without rules to be accountable for - like the $420 Ruth Criss Steakhouse dinner, he Norm?

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  • M JonesJanuary 07, 2014 - 11:47 am

    Dear Board Members of GDPUD please provide a complete list of all the things that have changed at the District in 2013. I know it is long and well worth the reading. Off the top of my head I know you have new payment options like use of a credit card. This last year has made more progress than any other year at the District and this paper just does not want to admit it. You as a Board have made sure there is going to be actual funding for the new treatment plant in place before you go out to bid. You were criticized for not going out to bid then you found out that there was no funding for the project in place. You found out that the management added over 1 million in extras to the plant and then you sent the plans for redesign to save the district over 1 million with additional savings on the annual cost of the plant. Along with changing the financing from 40 years at 4.5% to 20 years at 0%, saving $15 million. I don't think that was ever reported by the paper. There is more, please give us the scoop because this paper sure won't.

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  • EvelynJanuary 07, 2014 - 11:54 am

    "Picking the fly sh*t out of the pepper" but nothing about the pepper itself.

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  • Terry Pickett, Cool, CAJanuary 07, 2014 - 4:47 pm

    I believe the critical point of this No 2 story of 2013 is why is Dawn Hudson and her editor Mike Raffety so protective of the old guard and use yellow journalism to blatantly attempt to disparage the Directors that we their constituents overwhelmingly voted FOR and support for the significant improvements that are now happening at GDPUD totally thanks to McLane, Otermat and we continued our support by voting for Capraun to create the new majority. I started following the GDPUD/Mtn Democrat relationship after reading comments and have myself listened to about a dozen Board Meeting audio and compared them with Hodson's articles and found myself shaking my head and asking what is the motivation by Hodson to not provide her reading public with a well-balanced intellectual representation of the meetings and purposefully omitting anything that makes the majority look good? And why is she more balanced when reporting on other agencies? Tell us Ms. Hodson, enquiring minds want to know. And yes Ms. Jones, and Mr Silva a response from the Board would show in black and white the extreme differences from Ms Hodson. And although Norm Krizl and Dawn Hodson attempt to disparage the 3 female Directors, their constituents that half a brain see the changes and are very supportive. Yes, their are the Rotary bozos that have never been to a meeting that listen to Norm and his cronies but believe me, I and my neighbors that pay attention to GDPUD issues welcome the improvements of the current majority.

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  • R. Keegan, Pilot HillJanuary 07, 2014 - 5:09 pm

    Terry - ditto my fellow GDPUD constituent. It is a major point that Hank White couldn't bring GDPUD into compliance after 9 years (long before the current majority were elected). I've been reading the GDPUD minutes and board packets as well as listening to meeting audio and the new interim GM has carefully disclosed all the critical steps Hanky Panky and his interim successor Kelly Shively did not do and they obviously had no clue what to do - they simply wasted a lot of money and time getting nowhere. Just for the one act of moving Shively aside and hiring a professional qualified Interim GM Gary Hoffman, the new majority has my vote of confidence for this major change of direction at GDPUD. Thank you ladies. Too bad Hodson stands apart in her bombastic reporting '“sta-a-a-a-red” at her.' Why note report all the incredibly unprofessional, low-life hot air that Krizl emotes from his big hot belly? Maybe someone should compile a list of those from the beast? Just a suggestion for somebody but listening to the vile that comes from Krizl at the meeting once is almost too much for me. No one loves the sound of their own voice more than Norman Krizl. And why not? Obviously his gal pal, Hodson is there to ignore the major B.S. and try to manipulate the rest of his B.S, When I listen to the audio of the meeting, Norm contributes nothing but sure spends a lot of time denouncing the folks that are making a positive difference (female Directors, finance committee). You'd never know that by Hodson's articles. I've made this suggestion before and here it is again - if you want to know about GDPUD issues, learn about them first-hand. The Mtn Democrap is the last place to educate yourself. And someone should publicize how Krizl votes. That alone is very telling about him.

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  • Really?January 07, 2014 - 5:33 pm

    Is providing fair reporting that hard? really? I have a friend who is an employee at GDPUD who is glad that Hank White and the old majority aren't around to run the District into the ground. Sounds like the change is good for employees as well as customers. Well done, ladies!

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  • EvelynJanuary 08, 2014 - 8:40 am

    Above, Terry Pickett asks why Dawn Hodson is more balanced when reporting on other agencies. I continue to believe that responsibility for the M. Dem's predictable reporting turned to character assassination lies higher up the food chain.

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  • Old TimerJanuary 08, 2014 - 9:47 am

    If this is a dysfunctional board, what the heck was it when it was ran by a majority who spent like drunken sailers on high management salaries ($250 for a GM with 22 employees, geez this is a tiny district and he made more with benefits the the EID GM who came with 30 years experience and an MBA!), junkets for the Board (D.C., Palm Springs), legal counsel making $70K a year doing the GMs job, all the while not investing in infrastructure or working on 5-year budgets with valid data that would show they were heading for continuous deficits? Would that be an "incompetent" board, Dawn? I believe so - so don't forget THOSE Directors (Shepard, Diekon, Neeley, Cooper, Pickell etc) who created the precarious situation the new majority inherited. Sorry Ms. Hodson but I've been around long-before you started your so called "reporting". You may fool some fools but most of us have your number and are scratching are heads on your attempt to discredit the positive changes at GDPUD under the "dysfunctional board". Your reporting is laughable and confusing.

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  • R. Keegan Pilot HillJanuary 08, 2014 - 10:42 am

    Thanks for the reminder Old Timer but you left out the name of the Director with the longest tenure and is still currently on the board - NORM KRIZL! Krizl's tactic is to try to attempt to do character assassination on the new majority to deflect from the significant malfeasance that has occurred under his watch. Lucky for him (or maybe not?) he has a junkyard dog reporter in his corner.

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  • B. FisherJanuary 13, 2014 - 10:47 am

    I'm confused about the title of this article - what is meant by "dysfunctional board catches a break"? Really all positive changes are the result of a new majority in the board. There was no luck or catching a break. I believe the title insinuates that something good is happening at GDPUD (new competent GM, progress, etc._) but Hodson tries to not give the new board credit. I wouldn't say the GDPUD customers, ratepayers and constituents caught a break either, again it was a direct result of us voting in 2010 and 2012 to put a new majority in power.

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  • R. KeeganJanuary 13, 2014 - 11:07 am

    Sorry, couldn't leave well enough alone. I read a recent comment by B. Fisher and I was puzzled by the wording "staff bashing", along with 90% of the article). Ironically, I listen to board meeting audio and both in context and tone, the majority of the Board (McLane, Capraun, Otermat) are not the hostile, bashing members of the board. As a male myself, I am ashamed to say that it has been the male voices at the meeting that have raised levels with condescending, arrogant, disrespectful tones to the lady Directors. This includes former GM Hank White, Kelly White (former interim GM), Norm Krizl and Ray Griffiths. Everything is recorded so Dawn please, please tell enquiring minds - on what basis do you even write that the majority board was "staff bashing", name a meeting date. This is a test to see if even you can defend the inaccuracies you print. There are so many mistruths and omissions in your article that anyone who listened to the meetings would be shocked at the difference between reality and Hodson's calculated slanted reporting. And to Evelyn, i wouldn't be surprised if the Mtn Democrat Editor Raffety was directing the slanted reporting. I have heard numerous times that he has close ties to a former Director. Better to put the heat elsewhere than where it belongs - the monthly luncheons with Board quorums violated the Brown Act, paid for by the public war unethical and in my opinion just one of their blatantly illegal activities. Hodson and Raffety have backed the wrong horses in their political game.

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  • Karma (It's come back to bite ya!)January 13, 2014 - 11:44 am

    I love that Dawn wrote: "Fed up with the ongoing criticism and micromanaging by the “gang of three” and their cohorts, White went out on leave in February." That was never stated in a meeting so did Dawn write this after talking to White? Two possibilities - Hodson created her on conclusion for White's motive to make it look like poor Hanky Panky couldn't take being asked for information by his bosses, poor baby! If I were making $250K per year, I wouldn't be a whiny crybaby, I'd do my job! OR Hodson did speak to White and yes he was fed up (what a weak baby). In that case, I think Hodson and White could end up testifying. Pray tell, - what kind of "leave" can one take LEGALLY because you're "fed up" with your boss and still get full compensation? Hmmm. Maybe it's time to call a disability fraud investigator on Hank White? You'd think for $250K per year he could handle a changing of his boss, the Board. He bailed because his incompetence was become apparent and his house of cards was falling. OK Vern Pierson, looks like your being handed this case on a silver platter. It's black and white, public funds were being spent on an under qualified GM, willing to steal from the public by taking leave to get out of working and being accountable while at the same time being well enough to job hunt.

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  • EvelynJanuary 13, 2014 - 11:58 am

    Karma: You make an excellent point, one worth highlighting. "Pray tell, - what kind of "leave" can one take LEGALLY because you're "fed up" with your boss and still get full compensation? Hmmm. Maybe it's time to call a disability fraud investigator on Hank White?"

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  • Nancy C.., Shingle SpringsJanuary 13, 2014 - 5:32 pm

    Dear Karma, My brother passed this online article and comments to me because I am a State of CA Labor attorney. IF there's evidence White was job hunting and interviewing while on leave. I'd say absolutely "yes this is fraud" and should go to the DA. The big questions if "IF there's evidence." Can anyone prove this? I don't have a history of what happened during Mr. White's leave but based on comments it sounds like he took a new job? If White interviewed with a new company while he was still employed by GDPUD "on leave", I'm afraid he could face criminal charges. If he applied for a job AFTER his GDPUD employment ended than there's no wrong-doing. Oh what a tangled web Mr. White doth weave! And thank God for the online sleuths that are aiding to hold him accountable!

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  • EvelynJanuary 13, 2014 - 7:06 pm

    Karma & Nancy C: BASIC TIMELINE using M.Dem articles 6/26/13 & 6/28/13 ---- • 6/12/13: Foresthill announced White's employment • 6/24/13: [Georgetown] learned that GDPUD’s GM, Hank White, had decided to leave the district and seek employment with the Foresthill PUD. • 6/25/13: White [told the M.Dem] he was in the process of preparing his resignation notice to GDPUD’s board of directors. • 6/26/13: “[White] has been on leave from GDPUD for several months due to what he said was a family emergency” • 8/19/13: White's Foresthill duties to begin

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  • Former Hank White SupporterJanuary 14, 2014 - 5:19 pm

    Nancy C. and Karma, recommend you go to foresthillpud.com Foresthill posted the GM Job description on March 9th with the deadline to apply as March 22. White "just happened" to have decided to go on leave AND apply for the job by March 22nd. It is totally provable that within a couple of days of the job posting that he stopped coming to work at GDPUD. How's them apples Mr. Vern Pierson?

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  • Ed KarmaJanuary 15, 2014 - 8:18 pm

    The more bitter Dawn the super reporter's National Enquirer posts get, the more I know this board is doing their job. I love how upset she is becoming because change is afoot. And, I'll bet those free dinners she was getting with Mr White have slowed quite a bit now that he has to drive like an hour to his new job since he was fired here. Nothing is so fine as a little Dawn whine with my dinner these days. Oh, and guess who else is happy? EVERY SINGLE GDPUD RATE PAYER WHO WAS TIRED OF BEING TREATED LIKE A BANK ACCOUNT.

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  • EvelynJanuary 15, 2014 - 8:30 pm

    Ed Karma: Hope you don't mind, but your RATE PAYERS TIRED OF BEING TREATED LIKE A BANK ACCOUNT is about to be hijacked. Great way of making the point. Thank you.

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  • Someone in the community who is proud to live hereFebruary 11, 2014 - 8:26 pm

    Reviewing old board meetings, specifically one held at an elemenatry school apparently, Hank White and then Norman Krizl stated that without addressing an immediate issues around the Auburn Lake Trails plan, would be assessed a $1 million per day fee if it was not taken care of. Where is that fee and why has it not been assessed? And, how much money has been saved by not going through the channels that Hank White and Norman Krizl originally stated were required? How much money was saved in interest from not using the only bank that Norm Krizl and Henry White claimed to be the only option? How much money are we saving by having people who actually give a crap about what's going on looking at the actions of a few irresponsible individuals that showed no remorse for bad decisions? I hate to feed the troll, but how long until the comedian holding the microphone has the mic turned off to where the voice of the public can be heard without a filter? It's too bad to see Georgetown so far behind where public opinion is still being managed by a newspaper and making a mockery of our historical area. I'll remind you, fellow readers of this site, you are representing all of us 'above the divide' when you respond and act here. For those I know in water management in the valley and even Auburn, these articles are a laughing stock. Now we even get to be compared to Foresthill. Yay. When you walk by each other on the street, think about what type of perspective you want tourists, people considering moving here and other professionals having as you view those writing 'professional' articles here and working within our community How would you react if this was happening at your kid's school, your work or otherwise?

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