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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
February 19, 2014     Feather River Bulletin
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February 19, 2014

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Bulletin, Record, Progressive, Reporter Wednesday, Feb. !9, 2014 7B 4 Editor's note: This story was submitted by the 2013-14 Plumas County Grand Jury. The 2012-2013 Plumas County Grand Jury investigated the Chester Public Utility District and summarized its report by recognizing and noting, " the sometimes overwhelming burden of governance and sincerely appreciates the CPUD Directors who volunteer their time and energy to help make a difference in their community. Each and every one of the five Directors of the CPUD volunteered for the position as a way to make a contribution and to make a difference in the community. This commitment often requires Directors to make the District a priority over work, recreation and even over family." The grand jury went on to say, "The Board of Directors of the CPUD ignored their fiduciary responsibility by placing unwavering trust in the Fire Chief/Manager of the District, allowing him to operate completely independently and totally unsupervised. The Fire Chief/Manager was allowed to pay himself his own wages and was not expected to track or even report his time off. The Fire Chief/Manager and the Board did not report to the staff or the public when the Fire Chief/Manager first 'retired' yet continued to work for the District. The Fire Chief/Manager wrote and signed vendor checks for amounts above the $5,000 limit allowed for one signer with no apparent consequences." The grand jury determined that the board "did not even routinely inspect the finances to ensure that: tie,public's money was being spent appropriately. Governance is not just a 'fire watch.' It is not enough to rely on information from the Fire Chief/Manager alone regarding the operations of the District. It is not enough to address only issues defined singularly by the Fire Chief/Manager. The Board not only has the power to govern, it has the responsibility to gOvern. "The CPUD Board should have held the Fire Chief/Manager accountable to the Board and themselves accountable to the public. The CPUD Board of Directors needs to reevaluate their mission, and focus on educating themselves about what their roles should be and what it means to lead a special district to success. This will involve a more 'hands on' approach, especially with regard to the finances of the District." The grand jury report that was issued in June 2013 noted the following findings: The CPUD board of directors, due to the lack of training and/or orientation, does not understand its governance role; does not demonstrate effective oversight of management; exhibits a meticulous lack of transparency contrary to regulation; engages in verbal battles with the public during board meetings; does not have district bylaws or rules that direct the functions Of the CPUD board; and is neither aware of nor familiar with regulations that apply to the district, specifically regulations regarding board responsibility. The grand jury made several recommendations, including the following: " above all else, that the CPUD arranges for governance and Brown Act training for all of the current Directors of the District and for the Clerk of the Board, and that the District creates an in-depth orientation program for every new Director coming on board." The CPUD board, as required by law, provided a written response to the recommendations made by the grand jury within 90 days of receiving the final report. In members' response to the above recommendation, they agreed with the finding and have taken these steps: The board and the clerk of the board have received Brown Act training; a regular training schedule has been implemented and ongoing training continues; and the board is creating an orientation program that will be implemented in March. The second recommendation that was made by the grand jury was " the CPUD Board of Directors reviews all District financial processes in order to create and implement, to the extent possible, appropriate fiscal procedures per generally accepted accounting principles." To this the CPUD also agreed and implemented the following Controls to provide clarity and responsible fiscal management: The CPUD board now publicly reviews and inquires about purchasing and i come statements; has better oversight to provide accountability with timekeeping and adherence to statute and district policies and procedures as presented in its recent audit of fiscal year 2012-13; and the district now employs an outside accountant for payroll, income and disbursement accounting and for preparation of fiscal statements. The accountant's work was audited by a third-party GAAP certified accounting/auditing firm; and the board is moving forward in hiring a general manager and will be working closely with that individual to ensure appropriate checks and balances are in place and working to ensure transparency of the district's financial workings. To help ensure future transparency, the grand : jury recommended the CPUD board require a brief financial summary by the district manager be presented at each public board meeting. The CPUD board is currently acting in lieu of the district manager and a fiscal accounting "snapshot" report is delivered verbally at each meeting and a written format is made available to the public. To ensure compliance with Brown Act regulations, the grand jury recommended the CPUD post meeting agendas, at a minimum, at the Chester Post Office and at the district office and that a website that includes upcoming and past meeting agendas, minutes and any information which would be useful to the public, including contact information for each member of the board directors and district management be created. The board acknowledges this recommendation and has implemented these actions: The board voted to develop a request for proposal in order to hire a web-master to create a District website and plans to incorporate this with Chester fire's current website; They are working with a credit card vendor to establish a process that will allow the public to pay their water and sewer bills on-line; the new webpage will include past and current agendas, minutes, financial and contact information of board members, district managers and relevant staff. The grand jury recommended, "The Board publishes board packets including agenda, draft minutes and the draft financial report for the public to be handed out at the beginning of each meeting, The CPUD board agreed and has been making these packets available for the past six months. The 2012-2013 grand jury also recommended, " the Board Chairperson and any other Director or staff member responding to questions from the public ensures that they remain respectful in their manner of response " to which the CPUD board responded, "The newly assembled Board is committed to maintain a professioqal demeanor during all Of its meetings and is comr itted to remain professional and respectful in all of itsl dealing with the public. As an example the Board has acquired both State and US Flags and begins each meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance." The final recommendations by the grand jury were "The Board establish By-laws which among other things, define the role of management and the role of the Board as well as those requirements of the California Government Code (Ralph M. Brown Act), 54954. This can appropriately be accomplished by investigating best practices for Special Districts," and that "The Board routinely networks with other districts to share best practices regarding appropriate by-laws, policies, procedures and issues affecting production and distribution of water, sewer and street lighting services and the provision of fire protection." The CPUD board concurred with these recommendations and has begun to draft and adopt appropriate by-laws which will make it clear what everyone's role is within the district. The board went on to say they are "committed to learn and practice best practices in every function that the district oversees." The CPUD board concluded its response by saying, "The Board wishes to thank the Grand Jury for its work on their 2012-13 report. It is obvious to all of us that many hours were spent in examining and analyzing the operations of CPUD and the resultant recommendations will assist us in moving forward to create a more effective and transparent operation." The 2013-2014 grand jury has reviewed the responses received by the CPUD board and will be forwarding the complete 2012-2013 investigation, along with the CPUD board responses to the 2014-2015 grand jury and recommending further monitoring. Is amvmg a our Top "d ! STORE HOURS: Tues,Fri: 12.6pro Sat: 12.4pm Sun Mon: Closed 60.3 cc LowVib X-Torq Auto-Tune Tool-less Chain Tensioning 460 Rancher Rusty Warren's 283.2226 507 Bell Lane, Quincy Open Mon.-Sat. 9am - 6pm