Meetings of the West Valley Water District Board of Directors are getting shorter and shorter in duration and the last meeting lasted only ten minutes. It would have been even shorter if former General Manager Anthony “Butch” Araiza had not spoken for three minutes during the public comments portion on the agenda.
To paraphrase his comments, Araiza said he thought the role of directors was to develop policies that govern the district, and the general manager was supposed to oversee the day-to-day operations of the district while implementing those policies. Now, Mr. Araiza should know since he is the longest serving general manager of WVWD and is considered a top water expert in the Inland Empire. He went on to say that it is his understanding the current president spends more time at the district office than some staff members.
From my years of service on many boards and commissions, one of the things I learned is how to separate board duties and responsibilities from that of paid staff. Whenever a board member, whether in the White House, Corporate Board, City Council, School Board or Water Board, starts dabbling into the day-to-day staff functions, it always leads to abuse of power and violations of well-established policies and procedures.
I am reminded of the scripture where the disciples wanted to know when the end would come. Jesus responded, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (In Mark 13:32). In other words, stay in your lane and be responsible and accountable for the things within your authority.
Mr. Araiza concluded his remarks by expressing three concerns. The first one focused on the Fontana Water Company lawsuit. He shared his hope that the district will move forward with its lawsuit because the Fontana Water Company has been pumping the Lytle Creek Basin for years and must be kept in check.
His second concern was related to the issue of so many staff members having access to district credit cards and the potential for misuse and abuse. From my personal experience and as many of us who have served on boards know, when you give too many people access to “the money,” it becomes more difficult to keep track of it in a timely manner. This can be especially true when you already have a board that had to be told by the treasurer not to charge alcohol to the district for ratepayers to pay—as occurred in the past. When you have a board or some members on a board who see the district as their personal ATM, credit card use/misuse could become problem.
Mr. Araiza’s last observation related to why they were having this Special Board meeting since a regular Board meeting was scheduled for the following week. According to the agenda there was nothing listed that was pressing or important that could not have waited. He questioned whether board members were looking for another payday at the ratepayers’ expense.
I agree that this board needs to know and understand its role and responsibility to the ratepayers, staff and the public in general as they carry out the duties they swore an oath to uphold.