Voting on a Hearing to Censure a Board member
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The East Palo Alto Sanitary District Board voted unanimously to hold a special meeting to discuss censoring one of its own board members, Dennis Scherzer. Scherzer was ineligible to vote on the matter when the motion to have the censure hearing was approved by the board in its meeting on August 30.
The censure hearing will be held on Thursday, September 27, at 7 p. m. in the East Palo Alto Sanitary District board room at the district’s headquarters, which is located at 901 Weeks Street in East Palo Alto. If Scherzer is censured he would be stripped of any seniority he has on the board, be removed from all board committees and be restricted from business related travel and opportunities to attend special board training sessions.
The sanitary district’s five-member board includes Joan Sykes-Miessi, Betsey Yanez, Goro Mitchell, Dennis Scherzer and Glenda Savage. While they cannot vote on matter’s that come before the board, the board’s General Manager, Lee Hawkins, and its Legal Counsel, Malathy Subramanian, are required to attend board meetings. Savage participated in the August 30 board meeting via Skype since she was in South Africa.
Before the vote to hold a censure hearing, Subramanian read aloud the provisions in the sanitary district’s code of ethics handbook which states the ineligibility of a board member to vote on his or her own censure.
Next Sykes-Miessi, the board’s president, addressed the board by reading what she considered a “lengthy letter” that explained why the censure hearing for Scherzer should be approved. In reading the letter, she said that Scherzer repeatedly acted like a “school yard bully” when communicating with other board directors, the board’s legal counsel and other East Palo Alto Sanitary District staff.
Sykes-Miessi gave several instances where she felt Scherzer violated policies in the code of ethics handbook. She said that he contacted legal counsel before speaking to the general manager about his requests for information. She recalled how Scherzer demanded a paper packet at a meeting after the board voted that the Sanitary District go paperless, and she cited the instance in which Scherzer decided not to get an iPad and failed to print out information before the meeting, yet complained that he wasn’t being accommodated.
Before the motion for the censure hearing was voted upon, Scherzer had a chance to defend himself. During his defense, he stated “this can all be resolved without going to censure.” He argued that an alternative approach such as conflict resolution would have been more appropriate.
But, his arguments failed to sway the board and the motion to hold the special censure hearing was approved.
Scherzer was elected to the sanitary board in 2009. Before he became a board member, he served as the sanitary district's general manager from 2000 to 2002, when he was terminated. Both Sykes-Miessi and Edrick Haggans, who is a former board member, said that they believed that Scherzer's management of the sanitary district was responsible for the board's near bankruptcy.
Scherzer replaced Hawkins, who first served as the sanitary district's general manager between 1987 and 1994. After Scherzer was terminated, Hawkins was rehired in 2004 and has served until now as the organization's general manager. According to Hawkins, the sanitary district has been financially solvent and has had budget surpluses from 2004 to 2012.
The author of this article, Jamilla Rages, can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.