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IVVGA slaps IID with no confidence vote

April 07, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors was hit with a vote of no confidence taken Wednesday by the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association governing body.

The action by IVVGA follows on the heels of an IID board vote on how water and power users would share the expenses of the district's new information technology department and its embattled and costly SAP computer system.

A similar vote of no confidence will be considered by the Imperial County Farm Bureau at its board meeting Monday, according to Lauren Grizzle, executive director of both agricultural groups.

"The crux is the IID board is not fulfilling its fiduciary responsibilities and is instead playing politics," Grizzle said Friday.

Grizzle said of the IVVGA's 18-member board, 16 were present, and the vote was unanimous.

In a prepared statement, IVVGA president John Hawk said the organization felt the need to pass a vote of no confidence "in response to the recent action of the IID board to unfairly saddle the water users with outrageous information technology costs, the numerous SAP computer problems and the board's unwillingness to seek independent and professional assistance through conducting an efficiency study of the district.


"We want to send a clear and distinct message that they are not being responsible trustees," Hawk's statement says.

The recent action Hawk refers to is the 3-2 vote taken by the IID board on March 26 to levy 76 percent of information technology costs to the power department and 24 percent to the water department. The board action reportedly reflects the actual costs of using the system, though it is known the system has not been able to process water order entry information and has problems with billing.

The three aye votes were from directors Andy Horne, Rudy Maldonado and Stella Mendoza. Voting nay were directors Lloyd Allen and Bruce Kuhn.

The IID board's action retained its intentions, dating as far back as 1997, that the SAP system's capital costs — approaching $15 million — would remain at 90 percent for power and 10 percent for water. These costs, which were again approved in the 2001 budget, are merely one of the factors used to arrive at the estimated 76/24 cost-sharing formula, which is, according to the action taken by the IID board, based on each department's information technology usage.

Hawk's statement goes on to say the computer system was purchased to primarily help the power department's needs, especially its efforts to eventually undergo electrical deregulation.

"What's aggravating the water users is the district is demanding payment for something we never asked for," Hawk said.

Deregulation of IID's power business, however, is all but dead in today's deregulated climate of soaring energy prices and rolling blackouts throughout the state except for the IID's service area.

On the issue of the efficiency study, Grizzle said the district would save the $400,000 to $600,000 the study would cost through more efficient operations in both water and power departments.

Meanwhile, IID board members expressed empathy with the farmers' concerns.

Andy Horne, IID board president, said he is very disappointed that the vegetable growers have found it necessary to take this action.

"I strongly disagree, however, with their contention that the board has acted irresponsibly," he said. "I think in our action we've attempted to be fair to both water and power rate payers and will continue to do so.

"I'm only afraid that this type of rhetoric could drive a wedge between the Vegetable Growers Association and the nonfarming public," Horne said.

On the issue of the efficiency study, Horne said there is a conflict of interest associated with a low bid on the study and that the second lowest bid was $250,000 higher.

"The idea is to wait and see if the conflict can be resolved," he said. "We hope to proceed eventually."

Division 4 Director Stella Mendoza, whose motion it was to adopt the current cost-sharing formula, said the Vegetable Growers Association's action is misguided.

"I have read their statement and understand their position, which I believe is counterproductive, but that's their right, however misguided," she said Friday. "I was elected to represent all of the Imperial Valley and not to serve as a fiduciary representing the narrow interests of the landowners or any other particular group. We should learn to trust one another and work together for the betterment of the Imperial Valley."

District 5 Director Rudy Maldonado said he felt compelled to vote for the new cost-sharing formula in order to preclude the district from being permanently saddled with a computer system that doesn't work. He said the March 27 vote will now allow the district board to move ahead with the possibility of removing the SAP computer system completely from water department functions.

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