IWVGA draft bylaws called into question

By BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

When the Indian Wells Valley Water District Board of Directors met Monday, Feb. 13, President Peter Brown updated the board on the IWV Groundwater Authority’s latest business — the formulation of the relatively new agency’s bylaws. Brown serves as the IWVWD’s representative on the multiagency board, which includes members from the city of Ridgecrest, Bureau of Land Management, China Lake and the counties of Kern, Inyo and San Bernardino.

District Counsel Jim Worth suggested that discussion of the draft bylaws be kept to a minimum until the Authority had a chance to discuss them at Thursday’s meeting. But member of the public Stan Rajtora spoke at length regarding some of his concerns, stating that the allotted two to three minutes during IWVGA meetings was not adequate time to be properly heard.

Rajtora pointed out a number of contradictions and inconsistencies in the draft bylaws, suggesting that they hadn’t been thoroughly reviewed. One of his most serious concerns was that of Policy Advisory Committee membership.

“It says here that ‘Nothing herein shall be interpreted to prevent the board from modifying PAC membership or removing particular PAC members if the board so desires.’ Basically what it’s saying is the board doesn’t have to hear anything it doesn’t want to hear,” said Rajtora. “And in the back, they actually have the nerve to talk about ethics. There’s no point in having ethics if you can remove anybody that says something you don’t want to hear. That seems absurd to me.”

Rajtora has also mentioned in the past a potential conflict of interest in allowing Kern County attorney Phil Hall to serve as legal counsel to the entire authority.

“Based upon Kern County’s desire to get out of funding the Groundwater Sustainability Agency, it may be the county is the first agency we have to sue,” he said. “I don’t feel very good about Mr. Hall being counsel for the GSA if we end up in litigation with the county.”

He noted that under Technical Advisory Committee membership, the bylaws simply said, “reserved.”

“The whole purpose of this organization is to have a technical solution to our water problem,” said Rajtora. “Thes bylaws mean nothing if we don’t have a Technical Advisory Committee. I think we need to kick somebody in the butt to get things moving."

Rajtora also pointed out portions of the bylaws that had confusing language, for instance the possibility of people who are not board members serving as officers of the board and ambiguity as to who was responsible for the Groundwater Sustainability Plan formation.

“If the documentation isn’t clear, then the intent of the original parties isn’t clear,” added Elaine Mead from the audience.

“And this document is not clear. There’s room for improvement.”

“I do agree with you that you can’t be too vague with the bylaws,” responded Boardmember

Ron Kicinski.

“But they also can’t be so tight that you can’t operate properly.”

Commenters were asked to bring their concerns to the IWVGA meeting this week, but Rajtora reiterated that their public comment time limit would hinder his message.

The topic also came up at Wednesday’s meeting of the Ridgecrest City Council. Mayor Peggy Breeden serves as the city’s representative to the Groundwater Authority.

But again attorney Keith Lemieux advised council and the public to hold off discussion until the Groundwater Authority had a chance to vet the draft bylaws.

Lemieux’s reasoning was that comments received during the IWVGA meeting would be likely to result in changes to the draft.

The city and the water district would then have another opportunity to discuss the latest version before going back to the IWVGA for its March meeting.

But Rajtora argued that Lemieux’s process didn’t allow for enough input from the rest of the council.

“The mayor needs more input than just her own,” he said.

Details of the IWVGA meeting were not available at press time.

Story First Published: 2017-02-17