At a stormy meeting Jan. 19, Pine and Strawberry Water Improvement District (PSWID) board members angrily denounced two members of the Water for Pine Strawberry group, a loose-knit organization critical of PSWID policies.
The PSWID board also brushed aside public challenges and reinstated current board officers on a 4-2 vote.
The clash between several board members and critics dominated the heated session.
“I’m sick and tired of the criticism of your watchdog group,” said Gary Lovetro, PSWID board chairman, directing his comments to Water for Pine Strawberry members Sam Schwalm and Pam Mason.
Lovetro said all board members had a high threshold for criticism, but Schwalm and Mason had crossed his threshold with their persistent questioning.
“I’m fed up ... it’s going to cost you very much personally to defend your actions,” Lovetro told Schwalm and Mason.
The chairman called his avowal “not a threat, but a promise.”
Schwalm later said he took Lovetro’s comments as an obvious “threat of financial ruin.”
Also at the meeting, board member Ron Calderon told Schwalm, “I’m going to put my foot in your mouth.”
Schwalm quickly replied, “No” to which Calderon shouted, “Don’t tell me ‘No.’”
Calderon said he was disturbed by the sight of Schwalm sitting at meetings with his “big head and big fat smile on his face.”
Board member Don Smith finally restored order by asking the chairman for “a point of order,” which in parliamentary procedures declares an improper decorum in speaking.
Later, Mason defended her group’s persistent challenge to board actions.
“We (Water for Pine Strawberry) behave well, we don’t rant and rave.”
Mason asked for board member Mike Greer’s removal as treasurer, insisting he might have had a conflict of interest when PSWID awarded an $80,000-plus contract to Hat Creek Electric, a firm Greer once owned.
Greer said he sold the firm to Dale Barnes before the contract was awarded. Records show his name was not removed from the Arizona Corporation Commission contractor records until two months later.
Greer denied any conflict of interest, claiming he had sold the business to Barnes well before Hat Creek received the bid.
The delay in removing his name from ACC records, he said, was because the corporation commission mailed the paperwork to the wrong address.
Meanwhile, the board praised Greer for his hundreds of hours of volunteer work with the district.
“I am suspicious of the way the contract was awarded,” Mason said. The group questioned the district’s decision to award a separate contract for generators at 13 wells, instead of bidding them as a single contract. As a result of that decision, the district didn’t have to resort to sealed, competitive bids. Hat Creek won all of the bids.
The often-heated meeting wound down with board members casting a split vote to retain current officers for the 2012 term.
But even that wasn’t without dispute as Smith opposed the reinstatement of officers, declaring, “I’d like to see some others take the lead.”
Smith suggested vice chairman Tom Weeks take over for Lovetro as board chair. But, because the motion to retain the 2011 officers had been made and seconded, Smith’s proposal was moot.
The motion to retain the current officers passed 4-2, with Smith and Weeks casting the “nay” votes.
For 2012, Lovetro returns as chairman, Greer keeps his seat as treasurer, Richard Dickinson continues as secretary and Weeks maintains his vice chair position.