Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | April 5, 2021

Questions surround creation of employee positions for Delta Independent Science Board members

In 2020, there were six vacancies on the Delta Independent Science Board, created by term limits for five members, and one member stepping down. The Delta Stewardship  Council ran a nationwide search in 2019 to recruit new members. Candidates were required to be “internationally prominent scientists with appropriate expertise” and were promised to be “paid part-time” for their work.

Then the COVID crisis hit the state budget. On March 24, 2020, Department of Finance Director Keely Bosler sent a letter to all Department Directors, citing a “severe drop in economic activity, with corresponding negative effects on anticipated revenues.” Bosler’s letter stated that “agencies and departments should have no expectation of full funding for either new or existing proposals and adjustments.”

On April 17, 2020, the Delta Stewardship Council staff sent a request to CAL HR to create exempt employee positions for the Delta Independent Science Board. The request was for positions that paid for up to 20 hours of work a month for each member, or up to 2,400 hours a year for all 10 board members. The existing contracts with ISB members paid for up to 3,400 hours of work a year, so the request was a reduction of about 30% in the authorized hours.

CAL HR then informed the Delta Stewardship Council that the new positions could only pay $100 per day. The Delta Stewardship Council’s Executive Director explained the legal basis in response to our inquiries:

Government Code section 11564.5 states that the rate for board members “shall be established at one hundred dollars ($100) per day unless a higher rate is provided by statute….”  Because the Delta Reform Act does not provide a specific compensation amount for the Delta ISB, the Delta ISB is compensated at $100 per diem.

The change in compensation was not reported at a meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council. Six scientists were selected for the Delta Independent Science Board and nominated for appointment in June 2020. The Lead Scientist’s nominating memo only stated,

Funding for the Delta ISB is part of the current Delta Science Program budget. Delta ISB members are compensated for their time and travel. No additional funding is required for this recruitment.

Meeting notices show that all Delta ISB members began serving as unpaid volunteers, starting July 1, 2020. The six new members took their seats in September 2020 and were informed that there were problems with their promised compensation. They only began to get the $100 per diem compensation around December 2020.

The Delta Stewardship Council’s meeting agendas for FY 2019-20 included quarterly budget reports. We could find no budget reports provided with the meeting agendas in Fiscal Year 2020-21.

Although the Delta Stewardship Council staff could request that the legislature amend the Delta Reform Act to provide appropriate compensation for the Delta Independent Science Board members for FY 2021-22, no such request has been made.

It is currently unclear if the change in compensation status in FY 2020-21 has resulted in a continuing loss of funding for the Delta Independent Science Board.


Responses

  1. This is a comment on the apparent glaring lack of a Delta Independent Science Board. Is it possible that no one — from California’s Governor Newsom on down — cares enough about science informing decisions on such issues as the gargantuan Delta Tunnel and the ecology of the Delta and its endangered salmon to constitute this board as required by state law? If so, how regrettable for our formerly great State of California!

  2. So the Board, if it continues, will be composed of people who can afford to give their time away or people whose other sources of income find it beneficial to place them on the board and support them through other sources.

  3. and if it degenerates to only people who can afford to give their time away, then the board becomes corruptible by natural resource exploitation interests.

    • So let me get this straight. Last year, during the pandemic, when the Stakeholder Engagement Committee were begin the Delta Conveyance Design & Construction Authority (DCA) to hold off rushing the design through, since their role was to meet with the Delta folks they represent and the pandemic made that impossible. But no, they pushed ahead, paying their lead engineer, Kathryn Mallon, $47K/month. The state had the money for their boondoggle but not the scientists?

      Maybe that was because an independent science team reviewed their two tunnel routes and pooh poohed both. Said the only route that made sense was along I-5, not through wetlands, farmlands where roads are insufficient, services don’t exist, soil inappropriate for tunneling.

      Hmmm.


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