In the middle of September, two Idyllwild Water District directors unexpectedly resigned but Acting Board President John Cook asserted that the vacancies would remain unfilled until a special election was called, no earlier than March.
Whoever won that election would have to be re-elected for a full term in August.
After the meeting ended abruptly and in chaos, the board had not met until Wednesday evening, Nov. 16. A week earlier, a Town Crier Candidates Forum was held for prospective directors. Four local residents — Geoffrey Caine, David Hunt, Dr. Charles Schelly and Vic Sirkin — stood up and explained their views and reasons for wanting to serve on the board. Cook was not present.
As IWD’s November meeting began, Caine addressed the three remaining IWD directors and requested they defer any actions until the December meeting. He said that 3rd District Supervisor Chuck Washington, who, with his board of supervisors colleagues, has the authority to appoint board replacements after 60 days, was planning to interview the four candidates later this month.
“Four people are being considered for appointment to the board,” Caine stated. “Interviews are Nov. 22 and an appointment might be Dec. 6. At the meeting in December, there would be a full board. Please table all motions until you have a full board.”
Since a formal appointment might be only a few weeks in the future and the IWD board has failed to meet since September, the short delay would allow a full board to address current management and other issues.
While the board did not postpone all the actions, it appeared that Cook had accepted that the two vacancies would be filled through the supervisors. He agreed with his two colleagues to hold a special meeting to interview interim general manager candidates on Dec. 9, after the date the supervisors might act.
However, later in the meeting, he expressed annoyance that another issue was being deferred until a full board was available. He argued that the positions would remain unfilled until March or April when he would call a special election.
This brought a collective gasp from the audience, who clearly reacted negatively. They want the board filled and taking actions necessary to keep the district functioning, such as hiring a general manager and seeking additional water resources.
Several stories in the Town Crier about former General Manager Tom Lynch’s assertion that a state water certificate for him was pending seemed to precipitate the resignation of Jim Billman, board president, and Mike Freitas. The former’s resignation was part of Lynch’s resignation note to Cook. These directors, along with Cook, had required Lynch to obtain the permit shortly after hiring him, but had never verified whether he accomplished it.
The State Water Resources Control Board has said several times Lynch failed the exam three times.