With a new president and three new directors, the Imperial Irrigation District board now steps out into the world a much different animal than it has been in quite some years, and it seems to be wasting little time in getting to work.
And this quick work is being done as questions are already coming up about whether moves have been made against IID General Counsel Jeff Garber’s position without proper authority, either by a director without a full vote of the board and without the move being agendized.
Monday will be the first meeting after what some would describe as the casting off of the old guard at IID. What we now have are incumbents James Hanks and board President Matt Dessert, both of whom were elected previously as agents of change. They are joined by Steve Benson, Bruce Kuhn and Norma Sierra Galindo, all selected by the electorate, presumably, to shake up the status quo.
Shake it they will, as the first agenda to the first meeting of this new board has at least two controversial issues decided in contested votes that will be revisited and possibly overturned today — the procurement/bidding process and a rule that disallows a candidate for the board also serving on one of two IID advisory committees.
Perhaps the real business of the day will occur in closed session. While the public agenda will figuratively set the tone moving forward, what happens in closed session will do so literally, and that might not be such a smart thing.
General Manager Kevin Kelley will find out what the future holds for him, his direction and, we gather, who is really steering the ship, if that is not already clear. The closed-door meeting has been described as goal-setting by Dessert and by Kelley himself. Government boards do their goal-setting in public, under the sunshine of public eyes. Personnel evaluations — which usually go over someone’s prior performance — are for executive session. That’s the way we and others have interpreted the process for years.
Kelley’s situation gives us particular pause, as we believe he has been a good general manager who has grown into the position. Whatever happens to his post, we hope it doesn’t just exist to serve the board in some shell capacity; rather, our hope is he will still lead the district through the thoughtful execution of the board’s guiding policies.
That said, something just isn’t right. If this “evaluation” is being done in violation of the Brown Act, and, dare we say, another Brown Act violation occurred just a few days ago, this entire two-year period of the board will have started off on the wrong foot. That’s not the way to begin an era of change.
For the next two years the voters have issued a mandate by way of a complete upheaval of the incumbents and the tone that has led the board for several terms.
At this moment, though, we’re not sure what that mandate says, and as far as the electorate goes, we’re not sure they know either.
We’re all willing to see how it plays out, though. We’re all willing to hope for the best and pay attention to the worst, even as we ask for the board to slow down and do this right. There is time; items can be pulled from the agenda, someone could be straight with us about Garber’s job status.
Two years is a long time, and a lot can happen. We believe that much good will come the district’s way in the next two years — we have faith that the balance of the board want the best for the Valley.
It’s important for that idea not to get an early stain of impropriety, or any air of wrongdoing.
New IID board meetsfor the first time.
Big decisions need a measured approach.
WHAT DO YOU SAY?
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