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TID seeks new director

Appointment process questioned

POSTED October 14, 2009 12:08 a.m.
The search for a new Turlock Irrigation District Division 1 Director formally kicked off Tuesday morning.
The TID Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to fill the vacant seat, held by Phillip Short until his Sept. 25. death, through a board appointment. The Board is now soliciting applications from all interested parties who are qualified to hold the position.
To be considered for appointment, a written resume and a statement of interest in the position must be submitted to TID Secretary Steve Boyd or Deputy Secretary Tami Wallenburg by 5 p.m. on Oct. 28.
All interested candidates must be registered voters and residents of TID’s Division 1, which includes Northeast Turlock, Denair, Hughson and Hickman. TID staff also warned potential candidates at Tuesday’s meeting of the public nature of all proceedings, in that all information submitted is of public record and interviews will be conducted in public session.
A special advisory committee, comprised of Division 2 Director Charles Fernandes and Division 4 Director Rob Santos, will pare down the initial list of applicants prior to a 9 a.m. Nov. 3 public hearing where an appointment will be made. Santos and Fernandes were selected to serve on the committee as they will be the only two returning members of the TID Board. Division 5 Director Randy Fiorini and Division 3 Director Michael Berryhill are not seeking reelection in the General Election that is to be held the same day as the scheduled appointment.
The appointed candidate will serve the remainder of Short’s term, which is set to expire in November 2011.
Before settling on appointing Short’s replacement, Santos briefly questioned whether the board might be better off holding a special election to determine the new Division 1 Director. While holding an election would delay the seating of a new director — perhaps until spring — and would result in costs to the District, the idea that lame duck directors would decide on a new Board member ruffled a few feathers in the audience, including those of former Turlock mayoral candidate David “D.J.” Fransen.
“I can understand the time constraints, but we’re talking no matter when this person gets in, it’s going to be a hard learning curve,” Fransen said.
Fransen said that, according to his research, TID would be required to expend just $40,000 to hold a special election. Almost 34,000 live inside the Division 1 service area, according to TID estimates based on 2000 census data.
The TID Board, under California Government Code Section 1780, is allowed to take three different actions to fill a vacant position. They may either appoint a new director, let the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors appoint a replacement, or hold a special election. A course of action had to be selected by Nov. 26, under state code.
TID staff members, in drafting Tuesday’s agenda, did not include any alternatives other than appointment for board members to consider. They also stated they had not been able to obtain any data regarding the costs or potential timeframe to hold a special election.
Fransen questioned whether the TID Board had violated state law by failing to agendize discussion of the alternative choices. He also asked whether board members had met in private to decide in favor of appointment ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, which Berryhill denied.
California Newspaper Publishers Association Legal Counsel Jim Ewert stated that he found the lack of discussion of available options “awkward,” but that he was not concerned that the TID Board violated the Brown Act by agendizing only discussion of appointment.
Should the voters of Division 1 disagree with the TID Board’s appointed director, a petition of recall could be filed, which would force a special election.
However, the seated directors said they believe that appointing a new Division 1 Director will be the best path to ensure smooth, uninterrupted leadership for the District.
“We feel that time is of the essence for one thing,” Berryhill said. “… And this is the way we’ve done it before.”
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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