Water districts’ new JPA holds first meeting

The newly formed North County Joint Powers Authority (JPA), designed to smooth the way towards consolidation of Rainbow Municipal Water District (RMWD) and Fallbrook Public Utility District (FPUD), held its first official board meeting March 6 at FPUD headquarters.

“This is a monumental milestone for both organizations,” said Don McDougal, an FPUD director now seated on the JPA board. “After a year of work, we have formed a JPA between Rainbow and Fallbrook Public Utility District.” Those selected for the JPA governing seats by their respective boards included McDougal, Milt Davies, Al Gebhart, Dennis Sanford, Bob Lucy and Helene Brazier.

After a public comment opportunity was offered, which no one responded to, the next order of business was to elect board officers.

By unanimous vote, Dennis Sanford was elected chairman, Don McDougal, vice chairman; and Al Gebhart, secretary.

In appointing a treasurer/auditor, FPUD general manager Brian Brady interjected that that position is not required to be held by a board member, thus a discussion ensued pertaining to those currently holding related positions in the districts.

It was determined by vote that Gene Buckley of RMWD would serve as treasurer/auditor for the JPA, with Marcie Ehlers of FPUD assisting.

An undercurrent of contentiousness didn’t surface until discussion about the appointment of an interim executive director for the JPA. While some board members said, “it’s already been done,” indicating that Brady had been selected, Brazier asked to make a public statement.

“I object to the manner in which he was selected,” said Brazier. “This is nothing personal, but it was done behind closed doors. There was no public knowledge of how this decision was made.”

Brazier cautioned other board members that she considered it “an inauspicious beginning” and said she hoped “the openness of process will be the order of the day.”

Dave Seymour, general manager of RMWD, reminded the board “this is an interim appointment.”

The board then moved on the adoption of bylaws, indicating changes may be made down the road.

“These bylaws are new to all of us and will undoubtedly change as we grow,” said Lucy. “I personally am very excited about this.”

In discussing the selection process for a public member to be seated on the board of directors, the consensus was to open up the opportunity to members of the greater community – Fallbrook, Bonsall, Rainbow, and DeLuz.

Davies suggested putting a notice in the Village News, and another suggested placing a notice in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“This way people can submit their information, a brief resume, then perhaps a committee from the board can review them and bring some recommendations back to a future meeting,” said Davies.

Brazier said, “I would prefer that the entire board review the applicants.”

Gebhart suggested a 30-day period for application submission would be most “reasonable” to allow applicants adequate time to respond. Fellow board members agreed. A directive was given to place the appropriate notices.

In discussion about which legal counsel would be retained by the new JPA board, it was recommended that interim counsel be appointed followed by the Request for Proposal (RFP) process. It was agreed that the RFP process would open up the opportunity for any general counsels to reply that would be interested.

The board voted to retain RMWD’s counsel, Greg Moser, in the interim capacity. FPUD counsel, Bob James, said, “I think independent counsel would be a good thing to consider in the future, in order to quiet some of the contentious undercurrents (in consolidating the two districts).”

The meeting went on as the board attended to what some referred to as “housekeeping” items, including establishing regular days and times for future meetings.

It was decided that the North County JPA will regularly meet on Wednesdays (after the FPUD and RMWD meetings) at 2:30 p.m. at Fallbrook Public Utility District at least for the first two months, and more often as needed.