Mary Harris: Where “Truth” is subjective.
On October 18th, RLECWD board candidate Mary Harris sent out an email to “hundreds of undisclosed readers”. Unfortunately the vast majority of it was false, subjective, and devoid of facts to back up her assertions. Erwin Hayer and Courtney Caron detail her errors below.
(Note: The letter from Harris may seem disjointed and very stream-of-thought… It is as I received it and unedited by me. This is how she thinks and writes. Draw your own conclusions.)
On Oct 18, 2012, at 4:50 PM, “Mary Harris” <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
To make sure this gets out to others who are interested in RLECWD, this is being addressed to hundreds of Undisclosed Readers. If anyone is on the RL net please post and forward to friends.
Best Kept Secret; The current 2010-2012 Rio Linda Elverta Water Board Directors have cost the District nearly $1 MILLION in legal fees to Attorney Ravi Mehta, leaving the district broke. The current Board’s mean-spirited demeanor and irresponsibility has crossed the line of common decency, causing me (along with much of our community) to lose all faith in this Board.
Courtney Caron: Mary Harris… What board entered this contract? Not the 2010-2012 board.
Erwin Hayer: The 2008-2010 Board entered into the contract on 28 Sept 2010 which tied the hands of the 2010-2012 board so that they would be unable to slow down the legal fees.
This was after the 30 Aug 2010 contract was approved by the Board and Signed by Board President Mary Harris stopped the State Loan. Then the Board had meetings on 20, 22, 24 and 28 September 2010 to redo the contract.
Harris along with Johnson & Hood are the people who started the mean-spirited demeanor and irresponsibility. The 2008-2010 Board was not doing anything to get the deficiencies corrected as indicated by the Compliance Order. Johnson and Hood have continued the mean-spirited demeanor and irresponsibility in to the 2010-2012 Board.
Sadly, there are four people running as a slate who have been mentored by the same people who supported the majority of the current board.
Erwin Hayer: These four are well educated, concerned citizens who know how professionally a Board should be run.
Erwin Hayer, Over the last three weeks I have lost more than $375 in lost and damaged political signs. Do you know who is taking my political signs?
Erwin Hayer: Are you accusing me? I was informed today that the Green, Longo, Anderson and Dills have had their signs removed from private property, do you know who is removing their signs?
Are you behind the bad publicity the water district is experiencing, by bombarding the Grand Jury, the State, LAFCo and the Sacbee with allegations of unsafe water?
Erwin Hayer: I have not sent anything to the Grand Jury, State, LAFCo or the Sac Bee about Unsafe Water for quite some time, possible more than 2 years, but I have been trying to keep the residents of Rio Linda and Elverta informed.
In the past, people have forwarded emails to me that you posted on the Rio Linda Net, telling the readers false and misleading information about the district and me in particular.
Erwin Hayer: Everything I have Posted to the RLE Net and Community is backed up with documents in my possession, stored in multiple locations. Can you describe anything that is false or misleading or are you continuing to make statements you can not back up, more rumors?
I have basically ignored them because they were not addressed to me and it would serve no purpose other than show that certain people in this community can’t set down and iron out their differences.
However, you sent the following to me and to undisclosed others as well, which makes me wonder who is receiving inaccurate information.
Erwin Hayer wrote: “Our Water District CAN NOT continue paying these Invoices on actions that Directors Harris, Hood, Hafner (Resigned and replaced by Suela), Paine and Johnson created when they hired Joe Sherrill who had no experience in any water district. ” Erwin Hayer’ statement is 100% False.
Erwin Hayer: Why are these statements 100% false? Were you a Director when an unqualified General Manager was hired on November 7, 2010 and shall continue for three (3) years when LAFCo recommended to not hire a GM that would continue after the NEW board was sworn in Dec 2010? In my opinion, he was hired to terminate 2 of the 6 employees in the 6 weeks before he was terminated. Sherrill was hired by the board consisting of Harris, Hood, Suela, Paine and Johnson (vote taken in closed session and not announced in Open Session. Sherrill publicly admitted he had no experience in water conveyance or water districts. So I don’t understand the “100% false.”
Mr. Hayer, don’t you think its time to let the ratepayers know the whole truth of why our district is in the mess that it is in? Over the years I have stressed fiscal responsibility by maintaining that revenue from water-rate increases should be used to provide the services for which it was intended; not for pay raises, lavish compensation packages and legal fees.
Erwin Hayer: Right after the 2008 election when you and CRAW, the secret political organization you started in 2001, campaigned for Johnson, Hood and Hafner and they were elected. Then you were elected Board President, then you terminated Ann Siprelle and hired William Floyd and Richard Chiurazzi who then hired a retired FBI Investigator that cost the ratepayers many thousands upon thousands of dollars and you state you are for the Ratepayers. All this money going out for witch hunts and nothing to show for it.
Recent rumors of raises was actually an attempt by the majority board elected in 2010 to restore compensation to employees after the 2008 board cut compensation by 40%-50% and failed to negotiate a new contract with the employees union.
Compensation packages, particularly for management, are in line or less than comparable positions in the region. See 2002-2003 Grand Jury report on water districts for verification.
Mary Harris was responsible for many of the lawsuits that were incurred and the legal fees. Further, a wage study was commissioned during this time. The results were never released to the public, which leads me to believe they were not favorable to those who insist RLECWD employees are overpaid.
These policies have been popular with most rate payers, but have not endeared me to the employees or their friends who previously served on the Board. We have all made mistakes at times, but Mr. Hayer you have repeatedly failed to let the public know that your friends who served on the prior and the current Board Members have caused most of the financial hardships the district is now facing. Why are you not holding these people accountable for their actions that have cost the district thousands upon thousands of dollars?
Erwin Hayer: Mary Harris, the Directors on the prior Board were unknown to me until I started going to the Meetings when you were putting out false info around 1999. Then the Current Directors were unknown to me until they announced their candidacy just prior to the 2010. Can you name one item that your Board did from Dec 2008 to Dec 2010 to get the State Loan that was ready to go until your 2008-2010 Board voted to Repeal the Rate increase on 15 Dec 2008 that was already approved to get the $7.5 million Loan on 7 Oct 2008. I asked you questions at the Jan and Feb 2009 Board meetings where were you going to get the money for the many items that needed correcting and I still have never received an answer from any Director or General Manager.
Let’s update the Facts: In November 2010 I lost my seat on the board by the three candidates who were funded by the labor union representing our RL/E Water District employees.
Erwin Hayer: Frank Caron, Courtney Caron, and Martin Smith, the three candidates you referred to, were not solicited by the labor union to run in the election. They gained the labor union’s endorsement (and probably some campaign funds) due to their promise to negotiate a fair contract with the employees. Frank Caron happens to be represented by a labor union in his management job at Costco. It is misleading to state that he is a “Labor Union Supervisor” as has been often stated. He does not work directly for the employees labor union as implied. But you lost the presidency of the Board in Sept 2010 by the Directors you and CRAW helped get elected. Do you think that is why You, Paine and Suela may have lost the Nov 2010 election? It was more likely the scathing Grand Jury reports and subsequent media coverage caused Harris to lose her seat.
The legal fees under this board are close to a $Million in the short time they have been in office… As of January 1, 2012 – September 12, 2012 of this year the legal fees thus far for the year of 2012 are $508,207.
Erwin Hayer: The invoice copies for Ravi Mehta, dated 1 Jan 2012 through 1 Sept 2012 total $315,460.59 which is $192,747 less than you stated and I included Dec 2011 invoices which were billed on 1 Jan 2012 at $32,413.98. Another error in your calculations?
Under the current board’s term starting December 2010 in the one year-nine months (21 months) time span the legal fee invoice numbers are somewhere in the $900,939 ballpark and will probably well exceed a $Million before the next election.
Erwin Hayer: My figures came to $831,188.73 for 31 months and included the 10 months when you, Paine and Suela were still Board Members. During that 10 months, Ravi Mehta Invoices added up to $211,668.94 which are included in the $831,188.73 for 31 months. Many of the legal fees were due to labor unrest and PERB suits generated by the 2008 board’s unilateral cutting of wages and benefits, and refusal to renew/renegotiate a contract.
More Facts: Mary Harris voted against hiring Joe.
Erwin Hayer:I don’t know if Mary Harris voted against hiring Joe. By all appearances, Harris supported him during his tenure, and the actions he took against the employees were the very same actions she tried to persuade previous managers to take, to no avail (disciplining/firing employees, cutting wages/benefits and overtime).
From the 4 Nov 2010 Emergency Meeting, CLOSED SESSION:
Closed session began at approximately 10:33pm.
Item 1: Conference with Legal Counsel – The Board of Directors will meet in closed session pursuant to Government Code § 54957(b)(1) – For discussion and possible selection Interim General Manager.
ANNOUNCEMENTS FROM CLOSED SESSION.
Item 1: Director Nelson-Hood stated that she and Director Spicer-Johnson had interviewed many people for the position of General Manager. The Board of Directors called the particular person and he was interested in the position. She said his name is Joe Sherrill and he is a Rio Linda resident. She stated that this person has several years of management owning his own company.
No vote was recorded in any minutes, therefore your statement, “Mary Harris voted against hiring Joe”, can not be verified. Your vote against Joe Sherrill is not listed in any of the Official Minutes of the RLECWD. You Voted to employ Ravi Mehta as General Counsel and then lost control of the Board and the Board hired Joe Sherrill before even announcing him to the public or even allowing the Public to ask who he was. Joe Sherrill then started firing employees which was the start of many more lawsuits, and this was the result of the 2008-2010 Board which you were part of. The 2010-2012 board then had to terminate Joe Sherrill before all the employees were terminated. Again, this is the result of your 2008-2010 Board.
Mr. Hayer, although I agree that we CAN NOT continue paying these Legal fees, I question your honesty and motives as to why you are not telling the public who had the power to control the legal fees. Where were the fiscal watchdogs that were suppose to be looking out for the ratepayer’s interest?
Erwin Hayer: Your Board (2008-2010) created the problem with the General Counsel’s contract which has tied the hands of the new board and you are now claiming the District owes you $3,000+ for your personal attorney fees. In my opinion, you were creating the problems by opposing any rate increase and still stating that the legal fees were caused by the 2010-2012 Board.
You keep telling people that I voted against GM Dillon’s 2008 rate increase. While it is technically true, the facts are that I voted against it, because it was slated to go into the general fund. The reason we don’t have money saved up for Wells and Capital Improvement is because the money is being spent elsewhere.
Erwin Hayer: The reason is the consultants recommended a 150% increase to be able to correct the deficiencies in the 2000 Master Plan and the Board then recommended a 100% rate increase instead. You were on the Finance Committee that recommended the 100% increase. This rate increase was reduced to the point that the priority 1 projects have not been done. Well 15 was the priority well in 2000 and it may come online within a couple of weeks, 12 Years late.
While I was President of the Board I worked diligently with others and the State for more than a year to secure a $7.5 million loan for new wells. “We established a Capital Improvement Account” to be used strictly for wells and capital improvements so the ratepayer’s interests were protected, while holding the rate increase to a minimum.
Erwin Hayer: Harris has voted against most, if not all rate increases and all capital improvement plans, starting with the 2003 master plan revision. I don’t know where you come up with the 2008 rate increased being “slated to go into the general fund.” To the contrary, the 2008 rate increase process fully adhered to Proposition 218 protocol. Subsequent rate increase processes conducted by the 2008 board (of which Harris was a member) did not adhere to proposition 218. The district was forced to settle a lawsuit addressing this, and there’s still no capital improvement plan.
Its documented that my voting record demonstrates my commitment to base my decisions on prudent consideration before each vote. As witnessed by the public at the September 2010 meeting where Bob Blanchard complimented me on voting against the Ravi Mehta contract by stating that my consistent, unwavering, relentless determination for restraint before committing the District to contracts. Erwin you video taped that meeting and know the truth, but choose to slant the facts to discredit me.
More FACTS, that Erwin Hayer has failed to disclose about his friends that served or who is serving on the current board.
Mel Griffin, Doug Cater, Jay O’Brian and Jerry Wickham was part of the prior board that voted to give lavish compensation packages that included not only its full share of contributions toward each employee’s retirement fund, but the District was also picking up the tab for the employee’s 7% portion. In addition, they had approved and funded a very costly Medical Retirement Plan that allowed employees and one Board member who had attained the age of fifty (50) and a mere five (5) years of service to the District to retire and receive fully paid medical insurance coverage for the rest of their life.
Erwin Hayer: How many employees were hired to work in our district without the required certificates, learned and took the tests, were awarded the certificates, then applied to another water district and left our water district because of the low salaries?
In 2008, RLECWD General Manager Dee Dillon was terminated by his allies. “As reported in court documents,”…three male members of the Water Board a frivolous lawsuit against the District and individual Board members.” Dillon lost his lawsuits. The District was reimbursed for attorney fees, but not the $327,104.41 total in the compensation settlement that was given to Dillon by his buddies on the Board, Hal Morris, Arbios and Blanchard. (that were supporters of Mr. Dillon) were replaced in the November 4, 2008 election. Mr. Dillon did not desire to work with the new, all female board, and therefore in an effort to extract as much money from the District as possible, his attorney hastily filed (what all competent lawyers would consider)(Mary Harris and B. Paine voted NO).
Erwin Hayer: For as long as I can remember, RLECWD employees have been enrolled in the CalPERS retirement plan. They share the same benefits as all the other public employees enrolled in CalPERS. They do not automatically receive fully paid medical insurance coverage for life at age 50 with 5 years of service with the district. They are only eligible after at least 10 years of participation in CalPERS plans, after which they are subject to a vesting schedule that pays a percentage of costs based on how many years they participated in the program. This has been explained over and over and over again, including having CalPERS representatives explain the program at board meetings, to no avail.
However, this belief has proven to be a very effective campaign strategy that resonates with a community inclined to begrudge district employees wages and benefits comparable to neighboring water districts.
The former board member is grandfathered into the program, dating back to an era (prior to increased benefit costs) when it was customary to offer benefit packages to Directors. He and former manager Michael Phelan have been the subject of lawsuits stemming from Harris’s attempts to cut costs by arbitrarily dropping them from the insurance program. There is a court order in place directing the district to continue to pay their premiums. The presence of Phelan v. RLECWD on recent closed session agendas may indicate that the district has once again lapsed in their coverage.
This is not why Dillon was terminated. He did NOT lose his lawsuit. The district settled with him, paying him $25,000+ cash and an additional 3 months severance pay. In exchange, he dropped his lawsuit against the district and Mary Harris (who was both named as an individual in the lawsuit and subject to a separate tort claim naming her as an individual independent of the lawsuit filed against the district).
The lawsuit was not “hastily” filed. This is of note because Harris has previously convinced Bee reporters that the lawsuit was filed because Harris, Johnson, Hood, et al won the 2008 election.
The lawsuit was months in the making, since the filing of tort claims is required prior to filing suit. The timing of the district’s failure to respond to the tort claims, and the period in which Dillon was able to then file suit, happened to coincide with the election. He was planning to proceed regardless of the election results.
The vote was 3 to 1 with one abstention. I believe the abstention would have been Harris, as legal counsel would have correctly advised her of conflict issues, since she was individually named in the suit and had a financial interest.
Because the district continued to violate the confidentiality and nondisparagement clauses included in the settlement, Dillon eventually filed a complaint that went to arbitration. The arbitration Judge ruled he did not prove his case. Those terms of the settlement agreement continue to be violated.
In September, 2010, the Board recklessly allowed Attorney, Ravi Mehta, to rewrite a new contract for himself with a substantial raise and included a new termination clause that could cost the District hundreds of thousands of dollars if we decided to change Attorneys in the future.
Erwin Hayer: Harris, Hood, and Paine hired Mehta on 20 Feb 2010, after Harris led the charge to fire Best, Best & Krieger. Harris was Board President during the creation of the old and new reckless contract. Harris signed the new reckless updated contract on 30 Aug 2010 and this contract stopped the State Loan. Then the contract went through several more changes on 20, 22, 24, and 28 Sep 2010 due to issues such as the 30% commission Mehta wanted on grants and loans received by the district that stopped the State Loan. Harris only flip-flopped after the contract became a political liability.
Finally on 7 March 2011 a rate increase, Ordinance 2011-01, that the CDPH required to get the final approval of the State Loan was approved by a vote, 3-2-0, with Director’s Frank Caron, Courtney Caron, and Martin Smith voting YES and Director’s Cathy Hood and Vivien Spicer-Johnson voting NO. If Ordinance 2011-01 was not approved, well 15 would still be a dream.