Davies steps down at MSD

Written by Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat October 04, 2012 02:55 pm

The president of the Murphys Sanitary District Board of Directors, who has come under fire as the owner of the district’s leased office space, tendered her resignation in a letter submitted Tuesday to district staff.

Patricia Davies is the latest of five board members to resign in a little more than a year. She did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

 

The board has long been a revolving door of elected members and appointees.

With Davies’ resignation, the dean of directors is now Tim O’Flinn, appointed in July 2011 to fill the vacancy created when Fred Kett resigned. Kett rejoined the panel in June after April’s resignation of then-President Cynthia Trade.

Davies had come under criticism earlier this year for serving as the district’s landlord in a lease that took effect during her brief hiatus from the board in 2010.

Former board president Beth Hartline called for Davies’ resignation in July citing conflict of interest based on the lease arrangement, for which she receives $350 a month for the office on Big Trees Road. The district has sought estimates this year for monthly rent at other locations with each option priced at least twice as much.

District General Counsel Ken Airola said he differed as to whether Davies’ ownership constituted a conflict of interest, with another opinion by Sacramento special counsel firm Best, Best and Krieger. 

Airola said no conflict of interest existed “because the lease was in existence before Pat became a director ... this is a situation where maybe reasonable legal minds can disagree and it is my opinion the district is not in violation...”

Airola did note that the lease situation was not ideal and that its terms could not be altered while Davies remained in office.

With the matter of the potential conflict on the agenda for the board’s October 2010 meeting, Davies resigned her seat before the item came up. A new five-year lease was signed in November and Davies applied, and was appointed, to the board again in December 2010 to fill one of two vacancies.

Hartline contended that an ethics training course she and other directors and district staff attended in August 2010 made clear the arrangement was illegal, rendering the lease “null and void.”

Davies has had to recuse herself from portions of subsequent board meetings this year in which matters including the monthly payment of rent and allegations that mold in the building were sickening an employee came up. General Manager Julio Guerra said last month that the mold issue had been alleviated.

Davies’ conduct in presiding at the often chaotic board meetings also garnered criticism from Hartline at a June session.

“It’s not a free-for-all town hall meeting where the public gets to tell you how to run this meeting,” Hartline said. “You should know how to run the meeting.”

Her husband John Davies interrupted an emergency board meeting Sept. 27 and offered to “go outside” to settle differences with Guerra about the district’s handling of removal of sewage sludge ordered by the state no later than Oct. 15. O’Flinn eventually interrupted the verbal sparring and attempted to bring the meeting back to order.

The district has advertised the vacant board position and is likely to appoint Davies’ successor at its Nov. 12 meeting.