The best way to resolve 2-2 stalemates of the Oakdale Irrigation District board would be adding a fifth member to break tie votes. But the board could not agree Tuesday on how to go about it.
In a two-hour meeting punctuated with interruptions, accusations, angry shouts and sarcasm, the OID board failed to either start a recruitment process or to agree on letting voters fill the board vacancy in the November election.
Decorum is something the public expects and deserves.
Tom Orvis, Oakdale
With no consensus, the November election option seems most likely. The Division 5 seat representing areas southwest of town became empty July 15, when former board member Gary Osmundson resigned upon moving his family to a new home in another division.
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The election nomination period is open and has attracted one candidate so far in Division 5: farmer Brad DeBoer. Others must apply by Aug. 11 to qualify for the Nov. 7 ballot.
OID board members Linda Santos and Gail Altieri favor appointing someone in the meantime. A tie-breaking vote would help the deeply divided board get back to business now instead of struggling with standoffs another three months, Santos said.
The board’s Herman Doornenbal and Steve Webb said they would prefer letting the people decide.
Division 2 and 3 seats, held by Doornenbal and Webb, also are up this fall. Both men have pulled re-election papers, and both face no opposition so far. They have served eight years and 31 years, respectively.
The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors could appoint someone to fill the OID vacancy 60 days after Osmundson’s resignation. That’s not likely because the appointee would serve only a few weeks, at most, before the November election.
The OID board has been fractured since Santos and Altieri ousted longtime incumbents nearly two years ago. They often found themselves on the losing end of 3-2 votes, including important matters such as selling water, suing to keep Santos and Altieri out of some closed-door sessions and appealing when the two won in court.
Santos also faced a recall attempt, but voters in Division 4 opted in April to keep her. Osmundson now lives in her district and has said he may challenge her in 2019.
As a board, we can’t even agree to give something back to the community? ... I think that’s sad.
Herman Doornenbal, OID board
Dysfunction reigned again Tuesday. First, the board deadlocked on giving $200,000 to the local school district for School Farm construction, and $100,000 to Oakdale City Hall for solar panels on a future roof at the community swimming pool.
The money came from selling water for $2 million to outside buyers last fall. In October, the board asked a committee to bring recommendations on spending it, and Webb – the board chairman – appointed himself and Osmundson to the committee.
In March, the committee recommended a $1 million rebate to farm water customers, and the board agreed. After some questioned what city dwellers receive for paying taxes of $1 million a year to OID, the committee recommended donating the combined $300,000 to the Oakdale Joint Unified School District and to City Hall.
Neither was requested, schools Superintendent Marc Malone and City Manager Bryan Whitemyer said, although both said they would have been glad to accept the money.
I’m all for kids getting what they need, but our responsibility is to go to the finance committee, instead of saying, `We got a windfall; let’s just hand it out.’
Linda Santos, OID board
Santos said she and Altieri were kept in the dark until Tuesday’s agenda was posted. They said they would prefer running the recommendations through the board’s finance committee, which includes Santos, for a proper vetting.
“It’s not fair to constituents or to board members that we were unaware of the direction you were going to be taking,” Santos said. “I’m all for supporting it. I just think it needs to go through the right channels.”
Doornenbal called the disagreement “pathetic. I’m sick and tired of you trying to direct the way things are going here,” he said to Santos.
I’m embarrassed about this whole thing.
Steve Webb, OID board
Webb, Doornenbal and audience member Brian Lemons said they were embarrassed at offering a gift and then reneging.
“All the little squabbling and petty politics needs to be over,” Lemons said. “Get on with the business of the district. Quit wasting time and money.”
The board took separate votes on the school donation, the city pool donation and whether to send the recommendations to the finance committee. All failed on 2-2 ties.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390