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Shouting, attacks rule North San Joaquin Water Conservation District meeting

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Posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 7:09 am, Wed Apr 27, 2011.

Shouting, profanity and personal attacks were rife during the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District’s meeting Monday evening. Audience members and directors exchanged barbs as the board discussed a policy manual, financial report and selection of new legal representation.

In an effort to make the notoriously contentious meetings operate more smoothly, Chairman Bryan Pilkington requested prior to the meeting audience members speak at a podium so it would be easier for them to be heard and seen. As the meeting progressed, he talked over audience members and directors for speaking over their allotted time or for trying to make multiple comments on an issue.

“You are (expletive) crazy if you think you can limit how many times I will speak,” said director Mark Beck to Pilkington during a heated moment regarding a discussion on the board’s policy manual.

Beck later apologized for his outburst.

One of the most contentious parts of the meeting came when Pilkington made a motion to repeal a policy manual the directors had approved in recent months. Pilkington was unable to attend the meetings in which the manual was discussed because he was recovering from heart surgery. Pilkington said the manual, based on one created by the San Lorenzo Valley Water District, should not be used by the district because San Lorenzo’s district is larger, has more miles of pipeline and a larger budget.

“They own their water; they have a reservoir,” Pilkington said. “They own a water treatment plant; it’s a completely different water district. ... They are a water district, we are a seasonal irrigation district.”

Directors Beck and Joe Petersen said the overall language of the policy manual was agreed upon by directors and that the plan was something designed for the district. The district’s former legal team did not bring up any issues regarding conflicts of interest during the policy manual’s approval, Petersen said.

Pilkington’s motion was seconded by director Hugh Scanlon, who said the policy was overkill but would not say what specific problems he had with it when questioned by other directors and audience members. Pilkington’s motion was shot down by Beck, Petersen and Marden Wilbur.

When Wilbur cast his vote to kill the motion, the audience responded with cheers and applause. Wilbur quickly reminded the audience the hour spent discussing the issue was not something to celebrate.

“We did this in February and I don’t look backward, I look forward,” Wilbur said. “I’m tired of this (expletive) bickering. You’re acting like 2-year-old kids.”

The district also needs to find new legal representation, since the board dismissed Herum Crabtree in a recent closed session. The district received four applications from legal firms and Pilkington began discussing details about them before Beck stepped in and said the issue should be discussed in closed session.

The board unanimously agreed to discuss the issue in closed session but no date for the meeting was set.

A financial report also drew ire from directors and members of the public. Petersen said the district needs to update its most recent financial report because it doesn’t account for more than $46,000 in penalties the district owes to the California Department of Fish and Game.

Scanlon said he had no knowledge of the outstanding penalty prior to Monday. Pilkington did not specifically answer if he had knowledge of the penalty, instead, he said he voted against previous budgets approved the board. He added that he consistently asked for audits of the district’s finances during that time and was not listened to.

The meeting was ended before all agenda items were discussed because Lodi Public Library, where the meeting was held, was closing for the evening.

After the session ended, Pilkington said there would be a police presence at the next session to help keep order.

“People who talk out of turn or get in people’s faces will be escorted out,” he said.

Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at jordang@lodinews.com.

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