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Our Opinion: A policy that makes cents

February 25, 2001

The issues the Imperial Irrigation District is facing require that board members travel perhaps more than any other governmental agency in the Imperial Valley, in order to protect our water and power needs. We expect it. And the board has done a mostly admirable job of representing its customers, particularly in recent years.

That doesn't mean the board should be free of an expense policy like the one that governs employee staffers. We agree with IID board President Andy Horne and Director Stella Mendoza, who are calling for the board to create such a policy for itself. Other board members questioned the need for such a policy during a recent board meeting, saying it is so important the directors be able to travel when it is necessary.

We agree is crucial that board members have the freedom to travel to meetings that could affect our power or water service. However, we do not see how a policy would prevent such travel.


With a public agency as large as IID, it only stands to reason all aspects related to governing the district be held accountable. The board is no different. As it works, there is nothing that limits one director's travel other than that the board has a $72,000 budget for its expenses. Policy allows the district to provide reimbursement to directors for their expenses without directors having to first submit vouchers.

We think it is possible to create a policy that holds the board accountable but does not restrict the directors to the point where they would be unable to travel when the need arises. Mendoza had an idea that each board member could have a budget for expenses. If a director needed to go above his or her budget, that director could get permission from the rest of the board to do so.

Director Bruce Kuhn asked if it isn't broke, why fix it? From the information we have received the system needs to be repaired. Horne has said board members — he made a point of saying it wasn't any current members — have failed to submit receipts and been paid anyway. That is an abuse and if that is occurring than the board, whether now or in the past, is not being accountable. Other past board members — one in particular of whom we are aware — traveled freely and spent lavishly on the district's dime in recent years.

The board owes it to the public to take this issue seriously. Horne said his plan is to bring a policy back to the board for consideration. We hope he follows through.

We are confident if the board discusses the issue thoroughly it can develop a policy that will allow directors to continue to well represent their customers in meetings, whether they are in Sacramento or Washington, D.C.

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