CSD Board policy states that directors may receive $100 stipends for attending meetings conducted under the Ralph M. Brown Act open meeting law, or that have been previously sanctioned by the CSD Board as a whole and for which a written report is filed. Qualifying meetings include regular CSD Board meetings, special subcommittee meetings, and county-level gatherings of representatives from all the advisory councils that advise to the Board of Supervisors on items of community interest.
The SMAC is a group of about a dozen people, including Sheriff Warren Rupf and staff, business people, staff from Reclamation District 800, citizens and other persons with an interest in Discovery Bay. The group was set up by Rupf in 2005 “to provide an open discussion and an exchange of information” about the Discovery Bay area, Rupf said. Its members were informally selected, according to Rupf, “representing a good cross-section of the community as best we could figure it out.” SMAC meetings are held quarterly in a Discovery Bay restaurant.
Rupf said CSD Board members were invited to participate in the meetings in 2005 after he ended the practice of assigning deputies to attend the CSD Board meetings.
“My reps were getting verbally beat up, and at some point I said I’m not going send them out there,” Rupf said. Not wanting the community to be "shut out“ of communication with his office, Rupf said, he invited the CSD Board members to participate in the SMAC. "It would have been inappropriate not to invite them,” he said.
Less than a year later, Rupf changed his policy, and representatives of his office have attended, and reported at, CSD meetings for more than three years.
Director David Piepho disagrees with Rupf’s characterization of how deputies were treated, but moreover said the CSD’s advisory functions are limited to representing the community only to the Board of Supervisors (BOS), and the Sheriff's Office is independent of the BOS. Paying directors to attend SMAC meetings means they are attending the meetings in an official capacity, and the board has never sanctioned any director’s participation. “There has never been a vote,” Piepho said. “I would not have supported that. It’s going around our board, and it’s a duplication of functions. The deputy attends our meetings in open session, as it should be.”
The CSD has, nevertheless, paid two of its members to attend SMAC meetings. Now-president Ray Tetreault has attended the meetings since 2005, and has been paid $600 in stipends and $64 in mileage expenses for meetings he attended while on the CSD Board.
Director David Dove has received $300 in stipends for attending SMAC meetings. Although he has continued to attend the meetings, he has not been paid for attending since 2007, according to expense reports on file with the CSD.
On March 4 of this year, Tetreault told the CSD Board that he did not file for the SMAC meeting stipends, either. Records show that he did not request a stipend for a January, 2009 meeting, the first since his return to the CSD Board.
On July 1, however, Tetreault lists an April 27 SMAC meeting among his expenses. He was paid $100 for that meeting.
“I thought that it (the stipend issue) had been cleared up, but to my chagrin I guess it wasn’t,” he said this week. “I think going to a meeting where I can give input and hear input from a lot of other people from various parts of the community I might not otherwise hear from is important. I see and talk to the sheriff himself for an hour and a half, instead of his lieutenant for five minutes (at CSD meetings). I don’t see how it’s bad for us to attend.”
The CSD bylaws also require written reports from meetings for which expenses are claimed, and no such reports have been produced by either CSD member who have received stipends for SMAC meetings. However, until recently all the directors have regularly been paid for meetings for which no written reports have been filed. Unlike the SMAC meetings, however, those meetings were sanctioned by the CSD Board.
“I have to say … we have not had much training; (the stipend) process just evolved,” said Piepho.
Resident Bob Mankin has been reviewing town records for several months, and in a July 1 letter to the CSD Board said he was concerned that the SMAC payments to Tetreault and Dove could amount to a “misuse of public funds.” He also cites the lack of a response to an inquiry he made into the matter in March as cause for concern about the board’s responsiveness, and said, “I am prepared to pursue the matter with the district attorney” if the matter isn’t resolved soon.
The issue was also brought up at a February CSD meeting, when Piepho asked legal counsel to look into it. No report has been delivered as a result of that request.
Tetreault said he expected the report “pretty soon,” and that the most important thing was to get it right from here on out.
“I want to do the right thing, and we will do the right thing,” he said.