Letter to the Editor: Resident Questions Meals Provided to Commission Members

3
837

Letter to the Editor:

To my fellow ratepayers, I am concerned about mismanagement at the Burbank Water & Power Department.
The Burbank City Council has appointed 7 Burbank residents to a board to oversee the BWP. Among their duties is to oversee the budget of the BWP.
The appointees are:
Cynthia LaCamera, Laura Tenenbaum, Christopher Malotte, Philippe Eskandar, Timothy Cherry, Earle LeMasters, and William Luddy.
 
Picture supplied by the author
A meeting is held at the beginning of each month at the BWP headquarters. The meetings are open to the public. In a room outside of the meeting room, before each meeting, are tables with catered food and drinks. The ratepayers pay for each of the monthly meals. Dawn Lindell, the General Manager of the BWP, confirms that she budgets $5,000.00 per year for these meals. Our 7 appointed board members are supposed to serve without compensation. No other board or commission enjoys this meal perk. I feel this perk (at the ratepayer’s expense) compromises the board members objectivity. After all, a board member cannot serve two masters.
It should be noted that Board Member Eskandar (due to his length of service) has enjoyed more than 100 free meals at the ratepayers’ expense.
 
It has been said that if you were to find one roach in the cupboard, there is usually more.
 
It also turns out that part of the $5,000.00 per year is used to feed the General Manager’s 9 top assistant managers attending each meeting. Ms. Lindell’s total annual compensation is $361,896. Each of those 9 top managers average total compensation is in the $300,000 range. In my opinion, the management at the BWP are paid very well. It begs the question: Why the need to give the managers and appointed board members a free meal?
When I questioned Ms. Lindell about the above practice she offered the following reasons:
 
1) We work hard.
2) It is tradition.
3) If I don’t include the free meals, my managers may leave us for other jobs.
4) I have the blessing of the City Manager.
5) The money spent is a fraction of our income/budget.
 
I believe all of the above reasons are unjustified to continue this practice.
 
I placed an open records request to see the credit card charges for the BWP management. They reveal a great deal of travel all over the country at the ratepayers’ expense. One multi-night hotel and food billing was for a trip to Anaheim. Another was for a trip on ‘Women in Management’.
 
The BWP is issuing a new bond in the amount of 120 million dollars. It GUARANTEES that our utility bills will increase 50%. With additional cost of living increases in salary, the cost of generating energy and the cost to purchase water always increasing, it is a safe bet that all of our utilities bills will DOUBLE in the next 4-8 years.
 
General Manager Lindell appears indifferent to waste and needless expense in her department. I am calling for change. We should demand a BWP board that exercises greater oversight.
 
General Manager Lindell should be replaced with a person who is budget-minded and cares about the ratepayers of Burbank.
 
Joel Schlossman
Burbank resident

    3 COMMENTS

    1. With all due respect, providing a meal to people who are volunteering their time for the greater good of the city should not be a complaint. I don’t think this is an issue or should be something we shame anyone for.

    2. Donna Marie, Manager Lindell orders food for 25 people, we have 7 volunteers. ALL of our volunteers work hard at all of our boards and commissions. If they receive any compensation (in any form), they are no longer volunteers.

      Have you ever seen an establishment offer a bowl of mints or candies? Studies show it creates a subconscious sense of owing the giver something in return. Our appointed board members should not be able to be swayed for the price of a meal.

      At the BWP I see the attitude of management as foxes guarding the hen house, their thinking is – well, we are only eating a few hens, no one will notice.
      There should be not even a hint of impropriety.

    Comments are closed.