FAIRFIELD — City Councilwoman Catherine Moy was elected Monday to the executive committee for the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District – an executive panel she says had been denied her for opposing junkets taken by other sewer district directors.
Moy’s election by district directors followed about 40 minutes of discussion and votes that ended when Fairfield Mayor Harry Price, who serves along with Moy and others on the sewer district board, said he’d remove himself for consideration for the executive committee. A unanimous vote by directors followed for an executive committee that includes Moy.
The executive committee, composed of four directors, makes recommendations to the full board on technical and other key matters.
Moy said after the meeting that her opposition to junkets includes the Jan. 15-17 winter conference of the California Association of Sanitation Agencies which took place at the Renaissance Esmeralda in Indian Wells, 17 miles from Palm Springs. Moy said she opposes spending ratepayer money “on that kind of travel and very fancy hotels.” She noted board comments that executive committee members should attend sanitation agency conferences.
The trip this month, taken by directors Mike Hudson, Pete Sanchez and Price, cost about $1,000 per person plus the sewer district daily pay of $143 for each director who attended, according to the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District.
Sanchez, who is mayor of Suisun City, said during a break in the meeting that he doesn’t dispute the that trips are expensive but said he has no control over the cost of a hotel stay. He said he’d prefer a conference closer to a restaurant where he could buy a meal for $8. The hotel where he and others stayed in Indian Wells charged $15 for a half-turkey sandwich, French onion soup and “something they call salad,” he said.
“It’s close to nothing,” Sanchez said of the hotel’s location.
Hudson, who is a Suisun City councilman, said after the meeting that attending conferences costs him $720 a day in pay from his job for the state. The conferences provide key information for the sewer district, he said. The conference would be cheaper if held in the middle of Nevada but attendance would suffer from sewer districts in California, Hudson said.
“I’m pretty hard core. I’d attend,” he said. “Some people wouldn’t.”
The councilman said of the sewer district and its operations that, “You’re running a plant here. You’re not running a bridge club.”
During the board meeting – and before the vote to name Moy to the executive committee – Hudson spoke about the conference in Indian Wells and called the event terrific.
“It was truly fascinating,” he said.
Hudson referred to a conference speaker and said, “He gets people excited about wastewater.”
“It was really uplifting,” Hudson said.
Price, asked about the conference, referred to the Solano County grand jury report which last May said that costs to the sewer district for directors and staff to attend conferences between 2010-12 totaled $135,169. The conferences took place in cities that include Monterey, Newport Beach and Palm Desert. The grand jury noted a significant drop in the number of attendees after public reporting on the conference costs. The jury said the sewer district staff was forthcoming in providing requested information and that accounting of expense reports is meticulous.
Moy said her objection is to the number of people who attend conferences. One to two people could attend rather three or more, she said.
Directors, in a separate matter, voted to keep their daily pay at $143 for such duties as attending board meetings.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.