FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA

Fairfield

Travel policy goes before sewer district executive panel

By From page A3 | March 13, 2014

FAIRFIELD — People who attend conferences would have to write reports about the events, according to a policy that goes before the executive committee of the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District.

Such a policy is the subject of a Solano County grand jury report that said it cost $135,169 for directors and staff to attend conferences from 2010 to 2012 at sites that include Monterey and Newport Beach.

Catherine Moy, a Fairfield city councilwoman who serves on the executive committee and as a sewer district director, said she welcomes the requirement.

“I strongly encourage the writing of reports so the public can get ahold of them,” she said. “They’re a public document and people can see what exactly people are learning at these conferences.”

“Some people call them junkets because of where they are,” Moy said of the events. She called the written reports “a step in the right direction.”

Sewer district directors elected Moy to the executive committee in January – a post she said she had been denied to her because of her opposition to “junkets” taken by other district directors.

Suisun City Mayor Pete Sanchez, a sewer district director and executive committee member, said he supports the written-report requirement and is already filing such accounts of conferences he attends.

The grand jury’s findings in 2013 included that the sewer district board meeting records comply with state law, but don’t provide the public with enough information about conference attendance. Recommendations by the grand jury included written reports by all people who attend conferences and that the reports be part of the board’s minutes.

Sanchez said grand jury recommendations may not have the force of law but that the public has high regard for the panel’s recommendations.

A speaker who appeared before trustees for the Fairfield-Suisun School District said in February that the school district spent $616,596 last fiscal year for travel and conferences and $457,484 so far this fiscal year, which means schools have surpassed the sewer district in such spending.

Sanchez said he likes the school district trying to stay on top of trends in education by sending people to conferences.

“I have no problem with how the school district spends its travel funds,” he said.

Webinars available on the Internet may allow district representatives to attend fewer conferences, Sanchez said. But programs on the Web don’t allow you to discuss matters with peers, he said.

Sanchez said that travel to Las Vegas by public officials for conferences often comes in for criticism, but that such trips are cheaper than going to Palm Springs, San Diego or Newport Beach. Airfare and lodging in Las Vegas are cheaper, he said.

The executive committee for the sewer district meets at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the administration building at 1010 Chadbourne Road in Fairfield. After the executive panel takes up the travel policy, the board of directors for the sewer district is expected to consider the matter at its March 24 meeting.

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]

Ryan McCarthy

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Discussion | 6 comments

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  • The MisterMarch 13, 2014 - 7:28 am

    Of course they'll need to sit in First Class on the way back so they'll have enough elbow room to write that report. Or am I just being cynical?

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  • Rick WoodMarch 13, 2014 - 3:56 pm

    Yes you are. No one is in favor of first class air travel for public servants, except maybe those who are ripping off the public. There have been a few, and, once discovered, they get snapped back pretty quickly. No, first class air travel is a private sector perk.

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  • Rick WoodMarch 13, 2014 - 4:05 pm

    Every public agency should also have a policy that requires receipts for expenses, with a few de minumus exceptions, prohibits public funds to be spent on alcoholic beverages and non-business-related recreation, and places a reasonable cap on daily expenses for meals and lodging. But I doubt if any of that would reduce your cynicism.

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  • George Guynn, JrMarch 13, 2014 - 10:28 am

    The Mister, you have great comments always! The real problem is that even though the junkets need to end, they are the tip of the iceberg. The manager of the sewer district needs to work for a lot less than $300K+ a year. The whole operation needs to become lean and mean and the rate payers need a big rate cut.

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  • patrickMarch 13, 2014 - 12:50 pm

    fat chance of that happening George. the manager makes more than the ruler of America. I don't feel that any of them are worth it.

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  • rlw895March 13, 2014 - 3:57 pm

    Who's the "ruler of America?"

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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