A proposal to add two elected officials to the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority’s Board of Directors has taken a step forward. The Charlottesville City Council has approved a resolution that would add one Councilor and one Albemarle County Supervisor to the Board, which currently consists of five appointed officials. Additionally, the Council approved a resolution to make the same change to the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority’s Board of Directors. A public hearing on the resolution was held during City Council’s meeting on March 16, 2009.
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The membership of both Boards currently consists of two appointed officials from each jurisdiction (assigned by practice based upon their positions in local government, e.g. City Manager), as well as one appointed citizen. City Manager Gary O’Connell and Public Works Director Judy Mueller represent Charlottesville on both Boards. County Executive Bob Tucker represents the County on both boards. Gary Fern, Executive Director of the Albemarle County Service Authority, sits on the RWSA Board and Community Development Director Mark Graham sits on the RSWA Board. Mike Gaffney was
recently re-appointed to a new term on both Boards
as the citizen representative.
“Both this Council and the Board of Supervisors have expressed an interest in expanding the membership of these two Boards,” said City Attorney Craig Brown. “The procedure for changing the membership is through the adoption of concurrent resolutions… and if both Council and the Board of Supervisors adopt these concurrent resolutions, they’re then filed with the State Corporation Commission.”
Two members of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan spoke at the public hearing, which took place after 11:00 PM at Council’s meeting on March 16, 2009. Former City Councilor Kevin Lynch said he thought the governance of the RWSA has been a problem for several years. However, he suggested that the current arrangement of the RWSA Board is illegal under state law.
“[State code] clearly states that no board member should be appointed for a term of more than four years,” Lynch said. “There’s nothing in the state statute that says anything about ex officio members who effectively have never been appointed to the Board but are only there because of their job title.”
Lynch argued that civil servants are stretched too thin to provide the due diligence required to make decisions about water and sewer policy. He said the appointed members often do not adequately prepare for meetings by reading their packets.
“Time and time again, I see Board members showing up clearly not having read the material and pretty much rubber-stamping whatever the director says, and in general not exhibiting a lot of oversight,” Lynch said. He said putting a Councilor and a Supervisor would only make the problem worse.
Betty Mooney said she was upset that the public hearing did not receive any attention from the media. She said the City should be discussing the direct election of RWSA members as in the case of the School Board. Mooney said at the very least, Council should not appoint bureaucrats to the RWSA.
Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris asked City Attorney Brown for his take on Lynch’s claim that the RWSA Board is formed illegally. Brown responded that the RWSA has been governed the same way since it was incorporated in 1972. He said the proposal before Council contains language that addresses Lynch’s concern.
Norris said the proposal came forward because of the concerns of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan over having government employees on the board.
“This is not a proposal that came out of left field,” Norris said.
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will take up the matter at their meeting on April 1, 2009.
After Council approved the motion to add elected officials to the RWSA Board, Norris opened up the public hearing for the same changes to the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority Board. Kevin Lynch explained that he thought the City shouldn’t bother, and recommended that the City terminate its participation in the RSWA.