Citizens of the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District are so fed up with the board's chairman that they are strongly considering hiring lawyers out of their own pocket to remove him.
"This needs to stop," said Toni Miller, a constituent of the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District about the board's chairman, Bryan Pilkington. "He can't keep running the district into the ground."
Miller was one of multiple audience members who spoke out about the absent chairman at Monday evening's regular board meeting, which did not have a quorum because only two board members appeared. Without a quorum, the board could not take action on a myriad of outstanding issues, including an update to its annual budget and whether or not to pursue delinquent groundwater charges.
As rancor grew among the audience, Denise Wamerdam, another audience member, recommended organizing a fundraiser with the intention of hiring a legal firm to potentially remove Pilkington as chairman. Miller quickly passed around a legal pad that gathered roughly 15 signatures.
Despite not being able to take action, directors Mark Beck and Joe Petersen, who attended the meeting, talked with the audience of more than 40 about issues facing the district — specifically its lack of finances.
If current trends continue, the district, which has about $90,000 to its name right now, could be $162,000 in the red by January.
"If by the end of this year we don't get our act together, we will be in trouble," Petersen said.
The agenda for Monday's meeting featured an item to take action on updating the annual budget, as well as pursuing delinquent groundwater charges as a way of recouping funds, but no action could be taken since not enough board members were present.
Beck and Petersen told the audience that one way the district could regain financial footing is if the people with outstanding groundwater charges from 2007-08 and 2008-09 would pay. Roughly 23 percent of the district's ratepayers, nearly 100 entities, have not paid the charge. The total amount owed the district from those individuals totals nearly $300,000. Both Vice President Hugh Scanlon and director Marden Wilbur are among the people who owe the district.
"Seventy-three percent of people paid the fee, whether they agreed with it or not," Petersen said. "It's not fair to them that the others didn't pay their share."
Both Beck and Petersen said Pilkington did not attend Monday's meeting as part of a stalling tactic to prevent the district from moving forward. He was absent Monday because he did not want to address issues they had put on the agenda items at a previous meeting Pilkington was also missing from, both men said.
After the meeting, Beck voiced strong criticism about the chairman.
"He's already said in a previous public meeting he wants to bankrupt the district," Beck said. "Everything he supports — hiring a new legal team and accounting firm and having a full-scale audit — is about spending. He has nothing on the revenue-generating aspect; that's because he wants to bankrupt the district."
While discouraged, Beck said the issues on Monday's agenda will need to be addressed at next month's meeting before any other agenda items are added.
Scanlon and Wilbur were the other directors who did not attend Monday's session. Scanlon had previously said he would be on vacation and unable to attend, while Wilbur and Pilkington did not return calls seeking comment. The district's next meeting is July 25. The time and location have not yet been announced.
Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at email@example.com.