[Santa Cruz County] SLVWD: board of director Eric Hammer resigns

Blog note: this article copiously references a 2017-18 grand jury report on the SLVWD.

At a special meeting of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District (SLVWD) Board of Directors convened at 3:30 in the afternoon last Friday, June 1, the board formally accepted the resignation of Director Eric Hammer, submitted by email on May 23 that was effective immediately. At the meeting, the board approved a schedule for applications, interviews and appointment of Hammer’s successor.

“I’m devastated that I have to step down,” Hammer told the Press Banner. “I’m not leaving because of any turmoil or issues facing the board- I’m stepping down because family and health issues are preventing me from being an effective director. I am very disappointed I am unable to honor my commitment to the community,” Hammer said.

Hammer was elected to the board in November, 2014, and his seat is up for re-election in November.      

Applications for appointment to the vacancy are available on-line at the SLVWD website, with a deadline for submittal of June 14. Interviews are scheduled for the June 21, and the schedule indicates a formal appointment could take place that same day, and be announced at the regularly scheduled board meeting on June 21 Regardless of who is appointed to fill the vacancy, in order to continue serving on the board the appointee will be required to run for election in the November 6 General Election.   

In his notice of resignation, Hammer wrote, “At this time, I am facing personal health issues and need to focus my attention on my personal well-being. It has been an honor to serve you. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to contribute to my community in this way.”

Board President Chuck Baughman opened the meeting explaining the Santa Cruz Sentinel incorrectly reported the 2017-18 Grand Jury Report on the SLVWD would be discussed at that special meeting last Friday. The Grand Jury report was not included on last Friday’s agenda, and was not discussed by the board. Baughman said that staff will be preparing a response to the findings and recommendations of the Grand Jury, to be discussed at the next regularly scheduled board meeting on June 21, and public input will be welcomed at that meeting, Baughman said.

The recent Grand Jury Report found fault with the SLVWD board’s communication practices with the community, noting the number of special board meetings doubled in number from 10 in 2016 to 20 in 2017, and only five of those special meetings were recorded for community review and access via Community T.V. 

The SLVWD board also moved to provide only “action minutes” of these meetings in 2017, which, “reduced publicly available sources of information about District issues for all ratepayers not in attendance at the meetings,” according to the Grand Jury Report.

The Grand Jury also found the district did not provide adequate “authority, guidance, training, or support” for the Lompico Assessment District Oversight Committee (LADOC). This committee was established for citizen oversight of the voter-approved assessment district that was set-up to pay for water projects in Lompico following the merger of the SLVWD and the Lompico County Water District in 2016.

The cost and construction timeline of projects funded by the Lompico assessment district have been contentious issues, and the district board has not been provided sufficient support or training to the LADOC to properly conduct its oversight responsibilities, the Grand Jury reported.

 Lydia Hammack, chair of the LADOC, attended the June 1 meeting, and said she thought the Grand Jury “overstated” the lack of support for the LADOC by the district board.

“Yes, things were a little rough at the start, but they have mostly smoothed out. I would appreciate the Brown Act training the Grand Jury recommended for the LADOC committee members though,” Hammack said.

The Grand Jury reported that one of the expected duties of the oversight committee is to produce an annual report to keep rate payers informed of the income and expenditures of the assessment district, which was not forthcoming after the first year the LADOC was in operation. This was related to the overall lack of support from senior financial staff at the district, and lack of training in the operation of assessment districts by the committee members, according to the Grand Jury Report.

Board President Baughman said the Grand Jury Report will be considered and responses discussed at the next regular board meeting scheduled for June 21. 

June 7, 2018

Press Banner

By Patrick Dwire 

County: