By Gary Meyer
Lebec County Water District (LCWD) continued on November 5 its tendency to hide information from the public when it posted vital information for district customers only on the counter at its business office, on a wall at the post office and hidden behind a small link on its website.
The notice announces a vacancy on the board of directors left open as Julie McWhorter’s term expires.
We have been unable to verify that anyone in the district has received the notice via mail along with their bill or through other means of
direct distribution. There has been nothing submitted to The Mountain Enterprise newspaper.
Trustworthy public agencies typically distribute notices of such importance using the most effective methods possible so they can be sure that the public they serve is given the greatest opportunity to receive the information.
Trustworthy public agencies typically seek participation from the public rather than seeking to avoid it.
Instead of demonstrating an atmosphere of openness, LCWD has, again, chosen an attitude of, “Well, if they really want to know, they’ll look for the notice on the wall at the post office or stop by the district office where they can accidentally come across it, or find it buried on our website.”
The LCWD board similarly kept quiet about the deadline for declarations of candidacy to the Kern County Elections Office last August. The only person who filed as a candidate for last week’s election was current director Tony Venegas, who took one of the open seats by default because there was no one to oppose him.
No candidates, no election. It’s that simple.
This left another open seat for which the board gets to choose an appointee rather than the public getting to vote.
Had this board chosen to publicize and promote the vacancies, rather than hide them, there might have been two or three candidates, and Lebec water customers might have been given a chance to hear debate on issues and to vote their preferences.
Why would a board of directors choose to hide this type of information from the public? Only the board members themselves can answer that question.
But it is clear that limiting the number of candidates for the open seat leaves fewer complications in choosing a person preferred by the board.
If two or three people who current directors don’t want on the board actually apply to serve, it may be more awkward for current directors to appoint one of their own buddies. It is a little too convenient to fail to advertise the vacancy and then say, “well…nobody else applied for the seat….”
As stated in an editorial two weeks ago, Lebec County Water District needs serious leadership. It needs leadership with openness.
The two most effective methods of distributing a public notice are 1) in the mail along with the monthly bill and 2) in the newspaper where most agencies place public notices.
The district’s notice says it is accepting letters of intent in an “attempt” to fill the vacancy.
Lebec’s water board, rather than attempting to notify the public, should just do it.
This is part of the November 8, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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