Regardless of California being in its fourth year of a severe drought, water is always a precious commodity to farmers. When that water is sold to others during a drought while theirs is reduced, farmers are bound to protest.
Grower Bob Frobose has notified Oakdale Irrigation District officials with a complaint letter stating the district never publicly noticed for an action regarding a Sept. 29 sale of 11,500 acre feet of water.
The meeting regarding the sale took place at an Aug. 20 Tri-Dam Project regular board meeting, whose board is made up of all the directors from OlD and the South San Joaquin Irrigation District.
“It’s very disparaging that our board of directors and general manager would do this,” Frobose said. “The whole thing equals corruption and deception.”
Frobose claims that the meeting agenda for the Tri-Dam Project only stated, “Discussion and Possible Action Regarding a Fall Water Release in Cooperation with State and Federal Agencies.”
“How would the public have known that this item was relating to a water sale, especially given the fact that Tri-Dam has no water to sell?” Frobose writes in his letter.
Frobose said he was very surprised that, in his opinion, the Brown Act was violated given that OID Board Member Frank Clark ran on a platform of transparency and the Brown Act in 2000.
“Public minutes from (the) November 14, 2000 Oakdale Irrigation District board meeting clearly shows then Frank Clark was fully aware of the Brown Act and its requirements, based upon the public comment he made,” Frobose also writes in the letter.
Frobose said he believes the directors’ and OID General Manager Steve Knell’s conduct amounts to “conspiracy.” He points to a Modesto Bee Oct. 18 “open letter” by Knell where Knell defends the sale and writes, “Our interest was in crafting a fair agreement that protected our farmers and our historic water rights… We think we succeeded.”
“The fact that he used ‘we’ means a group and that equals conspiracy,” Frobose said. “My plan is also to go to the Grand Jury with this.”
When contacted, Clark pointed out that Frobose is a strong supporter of Gail Altieri who is running against him in District 1 and of Linda Santos who is running against incumbent Al Bairos in District 4.
“His (Frobose’s) contention that OID has somehow violated the Brown Act is pure political rhetoric designed to discredit OID,” Clark said. “All action taken on this issue was carefully reviewed by OID’s attorney and we have been assured that no Brown Act violation occurred.”
Knell said he received Frobose’s complaint letter on Friday, Oct. 23.
“His complaint will be adequately and thoroughly addressed upon review by OID counsel in the coming weeks and a response sent to him,” Knell said.
Knell said that Frobose “falsely interprets” the structure of the Tri Dam meeting at where both boards approved the water release agreements.
“Tri Dam is simply a meeting of the OID Board of Directors and the South San Joaquin Board of Directors” Knell said. “Each board meets independently and votes independently on matters of common interest of the two districts. Any item voted on and approved by the OID Board carries with it the full weight and effect as if voted on at a regular board meeting.”
Knell added that the water sale item was “agendized” and properly posted at both districts as required by law. He said the public had a chance to speak and even Santos, who was in the audience, sat silent.
“We see little basis for Mr. Frobose’s allegations but as stated, OID will review and respond as required by law,” Knell said.