Directors Stop Pay to Attend Meetings

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Carson-based public water district criticized for giving its directors overly generous perks has moved to cut back on those expenses and require board approval for all reimbursement costs.

Officials said the action by the Central Basin Municipal Water District comes in response to a Times article in April that publicized the compensation packages of the district's directors, which rank among the highest of any district in Southern California.

Directors on Monday unanimously voted to place a moratorium on the most controversial expenditures: the amount members receive to attend meetings. Critics say some directors abused the practice, charging the district for attending such events as prayer breakfasts and scholarship dinners to boost their per-diem pay.

The moratorium will remain in place until a new, stricter policy is approved. Director Bob Apodaca said state legislators had threatened to act had changes not been made.

"It's the right thing to do," said Apodaca, a strong backer of the reforms. "I feel that runaway expenses are an abuse of the community and the taxpayer."

The district acts as a middleman in selling water to agencies that collect fees from ratepayers in southeast Los Angeles County.

It pays directors $195 for every day they meet or attend to district-related business, up to a maximum of 10 meetings in a month. Although the board holds only one scheduled meeting per month, several board members have been paid the maximum of $23,400 per year for attending award ceremonies for community groups and lunch meetings with other board members.

Director Albert Robles said he usually hits the 10-meeting mark, but said changes are necessary to clarify what qualifies as a district-related meeting. Either way, he said, the board's vote won't prevent him from going to important meetings.

"I will continue to go even if not reimbursed," he said. "Obviously, if I need to keep abreast of the issues and represent my constituents, I will."

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