Dispute splits Yuba water board
An ongoing dispute among Yuba County Water District directors threatened to bring the district to a standstill Wednesday.
The four-member board could not approve payroll expenses, minutes from previous meetings and paying the bills.
Board President Loren Olsen and Director Dale Story are on one side, while Directors Peggy Brown Mullins and Jenny Brown are on the other.
"The philosophy is such that we're divided right down the bill," said Olsen.
The Brownsville-based district has about 800 domestic and 100 irrigation customers.
"Operationally speaking, the staff does a superb job providing some of the best water in the state," Olsen said.
The district has operated without a budget for two years and cannot legally pay its bills, said Mullins, who has been on the board for six years.
YCWD's latest stalemate came a few weeks after the 2004-05 Yuba County grand jury report criticized the district.
"There are obvious personal conflicts between some of the directors and between some directors and the manager," the grand jury said. "Some of the board members try to 'micro-manage' the manager."
The grand jury, after a lengthy investigation, observed "serious dysfunction ... among the board of directors, making their ability to conduct some of their business difficult, if not impossible."
The panel suggested that YCWD directors "stop micromanaging (Manager Dennis Parker) and start holding him accountable for the major responsibilities he is hired to execute. Examples of this would be the annual budget, reapportionment and annexation of land."
If directors can't "serve the public in a constructive and knowledgeable manner, they should either resign or not run for re-election," the grand jury said.
People who attend YCWD meetings "should eliminate their hypercritical and challenging comments and only voice what is constructive," the panel said in its report.
Grand jurors said they attended one YCWD meeting that lasted four hours.
"Parliamentary procedure was routinely ignored, and the whole process was exhausting to witness," the report said.
Mullins on Wednesday said Parker presented a budget last year, but components of the budget such as cash on hand, reserve account balances and cash flow statements were not included.
The director said she was advised by attorneys that without a budget, she can't approve anything.
Mullins also wanted to know where Parker is. She said he's been at work intermittently and hasn't been seen for weeks.
Olsen said Parker is on leave.
Mullins wanted to know who approved the leave, his payments and the nature of his leave. She said she received no answers.
Parker could not be reached for comment.
Each side said the other was responsible for the district's problems.
Board members are hopeful that an election to fill a vacancy created when Director Clarence Weckman resigned will restore some direction and order to the board.
Mullins said she wants an emergency meeting called to work through some of the issues, while Olsen said the issues must be resolved before the state or the courts step in to take over.
"We got to keep going and keep the place running," Olsen said.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Daniel Witter can be reached at 749-4712. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.