If you are a customer of North Yuba Water District (NYWD), you recently received the District’s January 2020 newsletter in the mail. Did you read it? There is some very disturbing news on Page 2 regarding the number of Public Record Requests (PRA’s) submitted to the district between January and November 2019. Nine individuals and one organization submitted a total of 106 PRA’s, an unusually high number for a small agency such as the NYWD. According to the newsletter, 94 of the 106 PRA’s were submitted by just three individuals: Charles Sharp (an irrigation customer) made 24 requests, Alton Wright (not a customer) made 30, and the grand prize goes to our newest Director, Gretchen Flohr, who made 40 requests for information. These 94 PRA’s cost the district a whopping total of $53,994.30 in legal fees out of the total of $60,394.80 billed.
Now keep in mind, as a director of the water district, Director Flohr is privy to district information that can be obtained directly from the manager or office staff, which could avoid the need for legal research and costs. At least twice during board meetings, other directors have advised her that they go directly to the office whenever they need more information. She can email the office, call or go personally into the office with her questions. Apparently she is not using any of these options and prefers to submit her PRA’s directly to the legal team. Why? I can concede that she could be asking for some items that are best handled and explained by the district’s lawyers, but 40+ times seems quite excessive. The legal bill she alone has racked up is almost $50,000!!! And this figure will most likely go up when December’s legal bills for PRA’s are calculated into 2019’s yearly total.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am more than just a little angry to see district money (yours and mine) unnecessarily paying lawyers if this could easily be avoided and the money used for more worthy needs. To me, this shows a total disregard for protecting district assets on Flohr’s part. As I perceive the job of board directors, they are responsible for the needs of their constituents in their own divisions but, most of all, for the overall health of the district. And it is our job, as customers and tax-payers alike, to pay attention to what this board director is doing with one of our most valuable assets in our foothills, our water district. Director Flohr seems to be thumbing her nose at the district and its customers and pursuing a very expensive path where our water district is concerned.