Friday, July 5, 2013

(Riverside) GRAND JURY: Rubidoux district official’s compensation tops among peers

BY SANDRA STOKLEY, Staff Writer, The Press-Enterprise -

The Riverside County Grand Jury, in its 2012-13 report, singled out the Rubidoux Community Services District for the compensation package of its general manager. Construction of the Rubidoux district's second manganese plant was a major project for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

The general manager of a small water and sewer district in Jurupa Valley has a compensation package that tops not just all water and sanitation districts studied by the Riverside County Grand Jury, but also the county’s chief executive officer, its report states.

The panel’s 2012-13 report, released Wednesday, July 2, noted the “substantial” compensation of some general managers of the 29 districts studied. It singles out the Rubidoux Community Services District, noting that the general manager’s compensation of more than $390,000 is greater than the $365,000 earned by Jay Orr, Riverside County’s executive officer.

Riverside County spokesman Ray Smith said the county’s top official, Jay Orr, receives $338,000 in compensation, less than what was originally in his contract, because he is paying a portion of his own retirement.

Rubidoux General Manager David Lopez said the report contained erroneous information on his compensation package as well as the size and budget of the district.

“It’s not a good report,” Lopez said, adding that he had called the panel’s office earlier this week, seeking a correction, but was told there was no one to take the information.

Lopez said the correct wage and benefits package was listed on the state controller’s website: $255,326 in regular pay, $56,569 in retirement, $28,192 in health/dental/vision benefits and $38,419 in other compensation which includes cashing in vacation and sick time.

That totals $378,506.

Lopez declined further comment.

Armando Muñiz, a longtime member of the Rubidoux district’s five-member board, said Lopez “deserves” the compensation he is receiving.

“His knowledge of the water industry saves the Rubidoux district a ton of money,” Muñiz said. “He runs the district like a business.”

The district is solvent, has money in reserves and provides low-cost, hig-quality drinking water to customers, Muñiz said.

“Dave Lopez knows what he’s doing,” Muñiz said.

In addition to water and sewer service, the Rubidoux district provides fire protection, trash collection, streetlights and weed abatement to residents in the Jurupa Valley neighborhoods of Rubidoux, Belltown, Paramount Estates, Jurupa Hills and a sliver of San Bernardino County.

It has an estimated 6,500 water and sewer connections, 23 employees and serves about 26,500 people. Last month the district’s board approved a $32.8 million budget for 2013-14.

The report says the general manager of the Jurupa Community Services District was paid $237,458 in salary and received $43,451 in benefits, for a total of $280,909.

The Jurupa district provides water and sewer service, graffiti abatement and streetlights to the rest of Jurupa Valley. It also is developing and oversees parks and recreation for Eastvale. It has 162 employees and about 27,000 water and sewer connections.

The grand jury also recommended that 14 of the 29 districts studied – including the Rubidioux district – hold board meetings after 6 p.m. to allow for “maximum public attendance.”

The Rubidoux board once held meetings at 7:30 p.m. but voted in 2011 to start them at 4 p.m. It is up to the board to set meeting times, Lopez said.

The grand jury report concluded with three recommendations:

Before raising water and/or sewer rates, water and sanitation districts providing insurance and/or retirement benefits to their director should reduce or eliminate full-time benefit packages for part-time directors.

A district website should give the public access to documents including financial, contractual, budgetary and compensation information for boards of directors and general managers.

Boards should hold meetings after 6 p.m. to ensure maximum participation and attendance by the public.

TOPS IN COMPENSATION

The Riverside County Grand Jury’s 2012-13 report on Riverside County water and sanitation districts lists compensation packages for general managers of the 29 districts studied. Here are the top 5 districts:

Rubidoux Community Services District, $391,821 (disputed by General Manager David Lopez)

Desert Water Agency, $377,181

Eastern Municipal Water District, $332,276

Western Municipal Water District, 323,307

San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, $319,563

SOURCE: RIVERSIDE COUNTY GRAND JURY

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