In what is likely the last salvo from the current Marina Coast Water District board majority, another special meeting has been called for Thursday afternoon.
The meeting, the third special session since two new board members were elected Nov. 6, will be conducted less than 24 hours before two exiting board members will officially be termed out of office. The agenda includes three main items the current four-member majority apparently doesn't want to leave for the next board to address.
Board president Dan Burns, who lost a bid for re-election last month, and Ken Nishi, who declined to run, will be termed out at noon Friday, said Marina Coast general manager Jim Heitzman. Burns and Nishi, who have consistently voted with the majority, will be replaced by Tom Moore and Peter Le, who are expected to be more closely aligned with current board member Jan Shriner. Moore and Le are set to be sworn into office at the board's regular meeting Tuesday.
Thursday's agenda includes:
· A likely procedural reconsideration of a controversial requirement that any move to annex Fort Ord properties require a super-majority of the board or a public vote;
· Appointment of Nishi as the district's representative in talks on recycled water rights with the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency and the county Water Resources Agency;
· And a deal with the Marina Water Alliance to conduct a feasibility study on the district's proposed desalination plant project.
Over the past few weeks, the board has called special meetings to approve a number of key issues, including an extension of Heitzman's $240,000 employment contract and employee raises, the annexation rule and a procedural reconsideration of a disputed water needs assessment for the Monterey Downs development.
The Monterey Downs and annexation issues were regarded by some as an attempt by the current majority to shield those decisions from future board consideration.
But Heitzman said the current board is simply trying to close business it has been working on for some time, adding that the new board can likely find a way to reconsider the actions if it wants to do so.
Regarding the desal plant study, Heitzman noted that the $198,000 contract includes a standard 30-day termination clause.
Heitzman defended the choice of Nishi as a conduit on recycled water talks because he has been involved with what the general manager called a "complicated issue," which could make it difficult for a new representative to get up to speed. He also suggested the talks could be nearing a resolution.
Shriner said she had heard the spate of special meetings referred to as "an act of defiance toward the electorate." She continued to question whether the board had broken its own rules by not requiring that members request agenda items in writing 17 days in advance of a meeting, and said she didn't know if the board was "following any kind of process at this point."
Heitzman said the 17-day notice requirement is only intended for regular board meetings or the board would never be able to conduct special meetings. He said he had not advised the board or any member on the special meetings or procedural issues, adding that he leaves any legal advice to counsel Roger Masuda.
Neither Burns nor Masuda returned phone calls from The Herald.