Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My turn: GDPUD’s caliber of leadership

From page A4 | June 25, 2014 |

I had the distinct displeasure of attending a Georgetown Divide Public Utilities District Board meeting in June. I have had some concerns about this board for a while and wanted to bring that forth directly to the board. I wrote a statement to make sure that I could deliver my message in a concise and respectful manner as I was told that the three-minute rule was strictly enforced, for some people. One individual talked for about 10 minutes. They must like him.

As the meeting was about to start, and the Pledge was about to begin, a gentleman walked up to the podium and asked for a point of order. I can’t speak as to the merit of the point but he had a right to bring it up and a reasonable leader would have allowed her constituent to politely make his statement. Unfortunately, he was berated not only by the board president but she allowed her supporters in the crowd to dress him down as well. Ultimately, he was bullied off the floor. She never acknowledged or ruled on the point of order. The gentleman felt that one of the board members, Maria Capraun, had forfeited her seat when she took on the job of interim general manager. In fact, there are statutes in the law that indicate that this may be so. The law is not absolutely clear as I see it, but there is enough there that a fair discussion should take place. Perhaps it is time for the Attorney General to take a look at this.

Under Public Comments, I read my prepared statement and tried to respectfully offer my opinions about the board’s actions over the past two years. One of the directors disagreed with me on a point and started to respond to me as Ms. McLane interrupted her and told her not to argue with me. I would have appreciated her information but it was not allowed by President McLane.

We then got to the approval of the minutes. Although an important exercise, this is considered the most routine action a board can take. A board member stated that there were mistakes. Some other board members looked like deer in headlights. Apparently leaderless, they decided to put off voting on the minutes — I later found out that they had not approved one single set of minutes for the previous five meetings. You would think that after that many failures they would have learned and agreed on a better process to accomplish the most rudimentary task in a public meeting.

Typically the process for approving minutes when errors are found is that you determine what the error is/are, you propose a correction(s) and you vote. This, of course, would require that they read their board packets before coming to the meeting to actually know what they will be voting on.

The feeling of disdain for anyone who spoke in disagreement of the board was obvious but especially palpable from President Bonnie McLane. I didn’t realize the sheer level of her hatred for those of us that dared question her actions until I was forwarded an e-mail by a friend. It was titled “gdpud eblast june reg mtg.” Most people would see that and believe it was an official GDPUD communication. It was sent out to who knows how many people. As I started to read it, it made my stomach turn.

It started with the gentleman trying to ask for a point of order. He dared make a remark during Public Comments that “respect has to be earned, not demanded.” It turns out that he is a longtime employee of GDPUD, now retired. This e-mail, that looks like a board agenda, identifies this fellow by name and says this about him: (His name, and former position) “spoke on numerous issues … (probably worried because of the huge deficit the district is carrying thanks to past board indiscretions, wondering if there may be some adjustments to huge retirement and medical benefits the retirees are receiving on the backs of the rate payers????).”

Disrespectful? No doubt. Libelous? Perhaps.

Not being an attorney I can’t say with certainty but I believe that discussing the performance of an employee by a board member is not appropriate and perhaps illegal, and yet Bonnie in her e-blast says this about the office manager: “The board tabled the vote on the minutes because of numerous mistakes. They decided to place the corrected minutes for review at the 6/17/2014 Special Meeting. Jack Podsedly asked who was responsible for the minutes, it was reported it was Diana Sampson, office manager.”

Who would be surprised to know that a couple of days later they fired yet another employee — yes, Diana Sampson (although the official word from them is she quit). They have no respect for their staff and as a result, I doubt that their staff respects them. They might fear them, but respect them, never.

What business can function much less thrive in this toxic atmosphere?

The e-mail now continued with me: “Ron Uso got up and read a diatribe about the dysfunction of the district, how the lapse in time of having a GM is detrimental to the district; he also lobbied for the poor workers of the district. (GOOD GRIEF !!!!!, all we need is union rhetoric for the poor six-figure salaried workers.)”

Of course, I never talked about unions and my name is Lon, but I guess those details didn’t fit into the necessary narrative. There hasn’t been a sitting permanent general manager in almost a year and we are trying to build a $10 million plant without consistent leadership.

The e-mail then continued, ”……PLEASE SIT DOWN, Mr.USO !!!!!”

In other words, sit down, shut up and don’t come in here bringing your stupid ideas. Never mind that I ran a number of successful businesses over my 35-year career or that I have served on numerous boards of directors or that I served on the City Council of the city of San Juan Capistrano and as mayor; in fact my City Council ran a much larger water agency than GDPUD.

I tried to Google Bonnie McLane and found nothing. What has she done that makes her feel so superior? I don’t know. Perhaps she will share that with us someday.

More than likely she will respond in the next e-mail blast because much to my surprise (actually, I wasn’t that surprised) this disingenuous, misleading, possibly libelous e-mail comes from no one other than Ms. Bonnie, your board president. I guess she didn’t realize that she left her digital fingerprints all over it. Perhaps she did and is so arrogant she doesn’t care.

All voters of GDPUD, please ask yourselves, is this the caliber of representation and leadership that you want for your water agency? My answer is heck no!

Dr. Lon Uso is a resident of Cool and former mayor of the city of San Juan Capistrano.



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