Supervisors Board Directs IID to Hold Special Election to Fill Vacancy

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EL CENTRO — The Imperial County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously, 5-0, not to exercise their right to appoint an individual to the current vacancy at the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors during Tuesday’s board meeting.

Imperial Irrigation District (IID) Director, Division 1, Matt Dessert, resigned from his IID Director position effective Friday, January 13 after accepting a position with the County of Imperial as director for the Air Pollution Control Department. 

Under California Water Code section 22849, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors has the power to fill the vacant position by appointment, but it must do so within 60 days of the vacancy, which is March 14, 2017.

If the board chooses not to appoint or simply fails to do so within the 60-day time frame, the IID Board may call for a special election to fill the vacant director position. 

On December 20, 2016, the IID Board of Directors voted to notify the Board of Supervisors of its wishes to hold a special election to fill the District 1 vacancy. 

COLAB Director Kay Day Pricola expressed her concerns of holding a special election.

“We (COLAB) encouraged IID to move forward with an appointment, primarily from a timing issue,” said Pricola. “We understand the election would not take place until June 6. Six months with a four-man board and the decisions that are out there today is a concern to the community.” 

Lindsey Dale, executive director of the Farm Bureau, also addressed the board and said she agreed with COLAB and would request an election not be held. 

“If held, the election would be a low voter turnout, and this would be an election where winner takes all,” said Dale. “There is no run off. If you have 20 candidates running for this position, there is a potential of a candidate winning by a very slim margin. We might get someone that is merely looking for a job and not qualified for this position — lots of different variables. There are too many important decisions made by IID to put someone in a position as such.”

Dale went on to say another concern was the inaccuracy of the list of registered voters with the new division’s boundaries.

“In our analysis of the list of 11,500 people, there is about 300 people that I can identify very quickly that are outside the district, as defined by the IID map,” said Dale. “In addition there are several people that are not on the list that should be. I highly recommend, if you do decide to go with an election, this issue be taken care of.”

Subsequent to a lengthy discussion and public input, the board voted not to pursue an appointment and allow the IID to hold a special election. 

“We have a very good working relationship with the IID and I feel we need to respect their decision,” said Ray Castillo, District 5 Supervisor.

“An election allows everyone to be able to be heard,” said Ryan Kelley, District 4. “I believe a special election is the path to move forward. This is also an opportunity for the community to challenge these candidates to find out if they are qualified to fill the position.”

Those interested in the position must be a resident of Division 1 and will be required to run for election in the next general district election, which is scheduled for June.

“I believe in the democratic process and let the people decide who should be their representatives,” said Michael Kelley, chairman of the board. “I understand the concerns COLAB and the Farm Bureau have with respect to the ultimate individual who will get that position, but I guess we have to have faith in what our forefathers put to us and let the people decide.”

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