Water wars erupt between RWR, Authority (June 9, 2012)
Rockdale Water Resources and the Water and Sewerage Authority both won leverage this week in the ongoing battle to determine control over the direction of Rockdale’s water and sewer utilities.
On Tuesday the Board of Commissioners voted to accept the Authority’s recommendation to terminate the contract of RWR Director Dwight Wicks at the end of the year in a 2-1 vote, with Chairman Richard Oden voting against.
However, in a recently released report, Oden outlined his “administrative decisions” on revising and outlining the roles of the Authority and RWR, based on recommendations from a joint task force.
According to the report, the Authority’s work would be restricted to more of an advisory role instead of a supervisory role – a restriction allowed according to legal counsel due to the Authority’s “diminished and limited” powers during its lease with the county – and would report to RWR in some cases. RWR in turn would do more direct reporting to the BOC Chairman. Contact between the Authority and RWR would be funneled through the RWR director and Authority chair only.
Authority Chair Elaine Nash declined to comment on the administrative decisions but said she did not know the content of the report until she received it Friday at a meeting with Oden.
The administrative decisions come after a joint task force - made of Wicks, Chief of Staff Greg Pridgeon, and Authority members Phyllis Turner and Bill Murrain - produced a report at the request of the Chairman at the end of March.
Role revisions for the Authority included producing an annual report on the county’s compliance with the 1996 lease contract and the Authority submitting recommendations on “fiduciary oversight matters” to RWR, which would submit the recommendations to the BOC Chairman. The Authority would also not review new initiatives but would be informed of them. This incorporates an objection Wicks had to a recommendation in the original task force report that allowed the Authority to review new initiatives.
Five recommendations from the task force for RWR were not included in Oden’s report. Those were: "Keeps WSA apprised of initiatives and responds to requests in a timely manner," "Provides recording device for WSA Committee meetings and transcribes minutes from bullet points and recordings," "RWR in conjunction with the County Chairman develops business objectives that promote the annual goals of the county and RWR," "RWRprovides monthly operations summary reports and monthly financial reports that detail RWR's operational and financial performance to the Chairperson of WSA," and "RWR provides a copy of the RWR Audited Annual Financial Reports to the Chairperson of the WSA."
An opinion given by the Authority’s legal counsel David Strickland advised that the Authority had some independent oversight and inspections rights, but that its role was “diminished and limited” during the period of the Authority’s lease with the county, which ends in 2022, and largely influenced by the desires of the current Commission and Chairman.
The report and task force came after a break down in the working relationship between RWR and the Authority over the last six months, particularly after the issue of radio read water meters came about. RWR Deputy Director Terrell Gibbs filed two human resource-style complaints against Authority member Garvin Haynes. Last week, the Authority voted 6-1 to recommend the BOC terminate the contract of RWR Director Dwight Wicks.
At Tuesday’s BOC work session, before the voting on Wicks’ contract Oden said his first time reading the resolution was at the meeting. “The leadership of Mr. Dwight Wicks at this time I have no issue with. He has performed admirably to his task,” Oden said. Later he said Authority members had been in direct communication with the two part-time Commissioners.
Commissioner Oz Nesbitt pointed out Wicks would be able to reapply for the position. “This doesn’t mean anything is going to happen between now and December other than the fact we’re taking the job description and putting it on the open market saying all those that qualify can apply.”
Commissioner JaNice Van Ness said, “I think it’s just due diligence we make sure we have the best candidate running.”
Nash said she was glad the BOC had taken an up or down vote on the recommendation instead of leaving it hanging.