The Oceano Community Services District (OCSD) board of directors is considering several changes to its bylaws that staff say would make the rules clearer and the district's business "run smoother," a response to recent controversy surrounding the board's decision to bar one member from committee service for the duration of 2020.
At a meeting on Feb. 12, the OCSD board mulled over the staff-recommended changes, including amendments to the number of meetings held each month and committee members' compensation.
- Screenshot From SLO Span
- MOVING ON At a meeting on Feb. 12, the Oceano CSD board mulled over the staff-recommended changes in response to controversy surrounding the board's decision to bar Cynthia Replogle from committee service for the duration of 2020.
Although board members didn't show much interest in dropping one of their two meetings each month, which staff said could save the OCSD about $27,000 a year, there was significant debate over how much board members should be paid for attending various committee meetings.
"The genesis of this was recent board discussions regarding committee assignments and various committees and which ones are paid and which ones perhaps aren't," OCSD General Manager Will Clemens said at the Feb. 12 meeting. "And it just was not clear in the bylaws what committees would actually be paid committees and which ones wouldn't be."
While board members are currently paid $50 per committee meeting attended, Clemens suggested scratching that and paying each board member $100 a month regardless of how many or which committee meetings board members attend.
The idea, which was initially brought forward by Vice President Karen White, is an attempt to address community concerns raised at the end of 2019 that the OCSD board majority purposely divvied up committee assignments that are paid and have voting power among themselves.
It's been a hot button issue in Oceano since Dec. 11, 2019, when the OCSD board voted to prohibit board member Cynthia Replogle from serving on any committees and from obtaining community liaison or subject matter assignments in 2020. Board members in the majority, including White, said Replogle's continued opposition to actions approved by the board majority are destructive to the OCSD and its goals.
Replogle and some community members claim that board members also left Replogle's only consistent ally, Allene Villa, without any voting or paid committee assignments.
Although the OCSD board voted unanimously in closed session on Jan. 22 to reconsider committee assignments at its Feb. 26 meeting, White said she hopes to put these issues to bed for good. Clearer and better bylaws could help do that, she said.
"I'm just trying to make it equitable for everyone," White told New Times.
Not everyone agreed, however, and Replogle said she didn't want to see all board members paid the same for doing different amounts of work. She also said paying everyone $100 a month could mean a decrease in pay for some, which could dissuade some community members from running for a position on the board in the future.
After board members couldn't agree on a new compensation model, staff said they'd bring more options to the board's next meeting on Feb. 26.
Several board members also noted that they'd like staff to bring back possible changes to the board's rules of decorum and bylaw 5.3, which requires that once the board takes action, "directors should commit to supporting the action and should not obstruct implementation of the action."
That bylaw has been at the center of the debate over the board majority's decision to bar Replogle and whether the move was fair. While other board members asked staff to clarify the bylaw, saying the term "obstruct" is too general, Replogle asked that it be removed from the bylaws entirely.
While General Manager Clemens previously claimed that a number of governmental bodies have policies similar to the OCSD's bylaw 5.3, Replogle said at the meeting on Feb. 12 that he couldn't provide any specific examples when pressed.
"I didn't find any governments using it," Replogle said. "And in many ways it's unconstitutional."
"Most of the CSDs in San Luis Obispo County have this exact same language," Clemens told Replogle.
At least four of SLO County's 13 other CSDs have bylaws dictating that board members should not impede the implementation of an action already taken by the board majority. San Miguel's CSD handbook, however, specifically states that when discussing a board decision with the community, members may clarify how they voted as individuals.
Though Replogle claims that stating such clarification on her votes is all she's ever done, OCSD President Linda Austin said she wants bylaw 5.3 strengthened.
"We're talking about public statements in opposition to totally executed decisions, like on Facebook where you're not supporting the action of the board," Austin said at the Feb. 12 meeting. "It has nothing to do with your freedom of speech."
Staff plan to bring bylaw changes back to the OCSD board on Feb. 26. Δ