At the May 21, 2021 Delta Stewardship Council meeting, Deirdre Des Jardins, Director of California Water Research, called for the Delta Stewardship Council to formally consider compensation for the Delta Independent Science Board at the next meeting. The request was supported by comments of Councilmember Don Nottoli.
OK, this is Deirdre Des Jardins with California Water Research. And I did want to say we were very troubled to learn from the Department of General Services that the Delta Stewardship Council leadership had requested that the contracts be returned around June 30th, 2020, which was the day before they were supposed to start. And even the Delta Stewardship Council’s own contract administrator was saying “What?” And we haven’t been able to get a straight answer about why they were returned and what was the legal basis.
I did have a conversation with the Executive Director in which she referred to constitutional considerations, and she said that we would have a call … I could have a call with the Delta Stewardship Council’s counsel. I don’t think this is sufficient. I think there needs to be a written legal opinion and the Council needs to review it. And also you cannot delegate to your Executive Director the authority to reduce the funding of the Delta Independent Science Board’s work below what’s needed to do their duty. So we’re very concerned that this decision would seem to have been made in secrecy. It was never brought for consideration before the full Council.
And if there was a major change in compensation, we believe it should have been noticed to the Council, to the public, to the Independent Science Board members. And it should have been done in an orderly way. They shouldn’t have had months where there were no contracts and they had no idea what their compensation should be. We request that you put reconsideration of this item on the agenda for the next meeting and you request that the Delta Stewardship Council Executive Director provide the legal basis that she made the decision to rescind the contracts and what that legal basis was. Because, frankly, I have heard from a huge number of people that the legal basis for rescinding those contracts was that the Department of General Services didn’t approve it because of AB 5, and that turned out to not be borne out by the record. Nobody is talking about AB 5 now.
We did receive a letter that CalHR had guidelines that suggest that they should be employees. But when we looked closely and my attorney looked very closely at it, there is no statutory basis for the hundred dollar per diem. That’s based on the legislature authorizing a per diem salary for the employees. And the Delta Reform Act is completely silent. There is no per diem salary authorized for the DISB employees. There is very specific language that dates back to 2010, authorizing them to be paid by contract. And the reporting structure is also contrary to statute. And we’ve asked CALHR to consider this and to abolish the positions that were created because it was based on what appears to be a legal misunderstanding.
The other thing that’s a very serious issue is it’s our understanding that two of the outgoing members whose contracts were up for extension never got paid for July or August. And it was because their contracts were rescinded, and I don’t think the Delta Stewardship Council should let that happen. And I also request that you put that on the meeting agenda for the next meeting.
Finally, I will say this isn’t just a State of California issue, it’s a huge state and federal issue because the CALFED Record of Decision, which was signed by the Secretary of Interior, the US EPA administrator, the Department of [Interior], Department of Agriculture, US Army Corps of Engineers, as well as Cal EPA and Cal Natural Resources Secretary. It commits to an independent Science Board that provides oversight and peer review of the overall program. So if this isn’t resolved, the federal agencies are going to have to do something. Because their authorizing statute, the federal law authorizing CALFED is still on the books and it requires an independent science board, and independent peer review. So this isn’t a minor board, it’s not just a California state issue, it’s part of a 30 year legal commitment and you absolutely cannot delegate this to the Executive Director. Thank you.