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Woodbridge Sanitary District board tackles fiscal accountability, performance standards

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Luis Ching

Posted: Thursday, July 14, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 7:39 am, Thu Jul 14, 2011.

Faced with having to respond to a San Joaquin County Grand Jury report that alleges major improprieties in its operations, Woodbridge Sanitary District directors spent Wednesday's board examining various tasks expected of any public agency.

Here's an example of some of the topics the sanitary board tackled:

  • Policies and procedures to strengthen and assure financial accountability.
  • A policy regarding the use of district property.
  • Adopting performance standards for the general manager/wastewater treatment plant operator.
  • Preparing an annual budget with monthly monitoring by the board.

In its most significant action on how Woodbridge's sewer district is run, the board voted 3-1 on Wednesday to advertise for a full-time general manager/wastewater treatment operator. The district is currently run by five to 10 part-time employees, according to the grand jury report released in June. It is led by General Manager Luis Ching, who is paid for 20 hours of work per week.

However, Woodbridge resident Mary Avanti was upset when she asked Ching five times about how often he works at the district's sewer plant. Each time, Ching said it varies how often he's actually at the plant, depending on how often he's needed there in a given week.

Board member Harold Rohrbach voted against fellow member Glenda Wall's motion to seek a full-time plant operator, and board member Dwight Langhoff was absent. The board also required that the full-time operator be on duty at the plant eight hours a day.

Regarding the general manager/chief wastewater plant operator, the board adopted some expectations that were not previously documented. They include:

  • Maintaining the district's sewer plant, buildings and equipment.
  • Writing comprehensive reports and studies.
  • Keeping accurate records as requested by the district or regulatory agencies.
  • Communicating clearly and concisely, both orally and in writing.
  • Representing the best interests of the district in a professional manner when appearing before the public, governmental agencies or civic writing.

According to the grand jury, the small district, which provides sewer service to Woodbridge, has allegedly committed payroll fraud and fiscal mismanagement, falsified state water records, harassed employees, used nepotism and favoritism, failed to adequately train employees, and lacked board polices and procedures.

The grand jury acknowledged that the sanitary district board has already corrected some of the issues that were cited, including the purchase of an employee time clock and developing job descriptions, credit card policies and a personnel manual.

The board deferred action on some of the agenda items because they may duplicate policies already adopted.

The sanitary district board of directors is required to respond to the allegations in writing to the presiding Superior Court judge by Sept. 20.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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