Sunday, 19 May 2024

Water board member resigns; recall against another member may proceed

CLEARLAKE OAKS – In the wake of a heated public meeting over the weekend in which community members began calling for the recall of two Clearlake Oaks County Water District Board members, one of the members in question has resigned and the second is deciding if he should follow suit.


Pat Shaver, the longest-serving member of the district board, confirmed Monday that she had tendered her resignation to district General Manager Darin McCosker earlier in the day.


However, Shaver would not offer a comment to Lake County News about her reasons for resigning.


The district's board held a public hearing on Saturday evening at the Eastlake Grange to receive public testimony about three proposed rate hike options – 39.4, 25 and 10 percent – one of which officials have said is necessary to help stabilize the district's shaky financial picture.


At that meeting the board was criticized for its handling of the meeting, which began with audience members asked to submit questions in writing rather than giving testimony and asking questions at the podium. Eventually, the board did welcome ratepayers to take the microphone.


Shaver was absent from the meeting and board Vice President Mike Anisman, angered by what he said was an abusive barrage from audience members, walked out a half hour into the meeting, which ran for more than two hours.


Community member Mike Benjamin – who had criticized the board for the way it conducted the meeting – then circulated two petitions to file a notice of intention to begin a recall effort on both Anisman and Shaver.


“There were so many people that wanted to sign that thing that I ran out of spaces for signatures,” Benjamin said Monday.


Benjamin said he actually took five petitions to the meeting – one for each board member, the others being President Helen Locke and directors Frank Toney and Harry Chase.


However, he said he felt both Toney and Chase conducted themselves properly at the meeting, so he chose not to pursue an effort to oust them.


Anisman had written a comment on Lake County News in which he indicated he planned to tender his resignation as well. However, he said Monday evening that he was still making up his mind about what action to take.


Benjamin said he was still prepared to pursue the notice to begin the recall against Anisman, saying his walking out of the meeting “was the absolute worst thing in the world he could have done.”


A former elected official himself in the Yuba County city of Wheatland, Benjamin said elected officials don't have the luxury of getting their feelings hurt. “This is business. It isn't personal.”


Over the last several months, Benjamin has been a fixture at board meetings, and board members also have called on his knowledge of the Brown Act and running public meetings.


He had warned Shaver at a June meeting that he thought she should be recalled.


Water board member Frank Toney had posed this question at Saturday's meeting: Who will step up and take the seats of the board members who leave?


Benjamin, who turns 62 in November, said he is willing to serve in order to get the district straightened out, but maintained he likes being retired and wasn't preparing to get back into public service. “All I'm trying to do is help.”


Board President Helen Locke said Monday that Shaver's seat on the board will be filled by appointment. The district will publish the opening, take applications and make a choice.


Locke, Toney and Anisman were elected to the board last November. All three told Lake County News in previous interviews that they had no idea about the district's financial condition until after they were seated on the board earlier this year.


The board is set to meet at 3 p.m. this Wednesday. Not on the agenda for that meeting is a discussion of passing a rate hike, which the board agreed to postpone, at raterpayers' request, until it held another community meeting fully explaining all three rate hike options.


On Wednesday the board will consider proposals for audit services to conduct two past due audits and a third that's coming due now.


Toney's suggestion to form a finance committee will be considered, and McCosker also will ask the board to allow him to appoint district bookkeeper Jana Saccato as board secretary, a job he has been holding down in addition to other duties.


Also at the request of ratepayers, the board on Wednesday will consider moving its public meetings from 3 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month to 7 p.m. every third Thursday.


In the wake of Saturday's tense meeting, Locke said she had considered offering her own resignation.


In the end, however, she decided to stay and continue working on the district's issues.


“We've got to keep the place running,” she said. “I'll hang in there as long as I can.”


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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