When the board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California approved salary increases for its top executives late last year, it did so without following its own administrative code and procedures. That allowed the Los Angeles-based board to effectively approve the pay increases with limited discussion and disclosure, and highlighted MWD’s “business as usual” to ignore inconvenient rules that promote public agency transparency.
During MWD’s Nov. 19, 2013 board meeting, delegates from the San Diego County Water Authority expressed concern that MWD’s board could waive its administrative code without a specific vote to do so. MWD’s Assistant General Counsel Sydney Bennion supported bypassing the rules. “If the board takes a specific action that is contrary to an admin. code provision, it is deemed a waiver of that provision,” Bennion said.
“So the board does not have to take a specific action to waive the admin. code? They just do whatever they feel like and if it doesn’t comport to the admin. code, its deemed waived for that action?” asked Keith Lewinger, a delegate from the Water Authority.
“Essentially, that’s correct,” Bennion replied.
The Water Authority raised concerns about MWD’s disregard for its own policies in a Dec. 9 letter to MWD’s general counsel. MWD confirmed its interpretation of the MWD Act in a Jan. 10, 2014 response to the Water Authority, which reiterated the position that MWD’s board can do whatever it wants and there are few rules its board can’t bypass.
Read the Water Authority’s December 9 letter:
Read MWD’s response: