The Amador Water Agency has appointed Paul Molinelli Jr. as the replacement for his father, the retiring District 1 (Jackson) Director Paul Molinelli Sr. The public objected to the selection process as well as this final selection from a pool of six other candidates.
The strategically timed December resignation by ex-Director Paul Molinelli Sr. enabled AWA to avoid an election in which the people would decide their representative. At the Dec. 8 Board meeting a proposed process of selection was met with strong opposition from a board room full of residents. Staff proposed creating an ad hoc committee consisting of 2 Directors, receiving letters of interest, conducting interviews and returning to the board with a best replacement recommendation.
The public pleaded with the AWA board to either hold an election or allow the Board of Supervisors to conduct a more objective replacement process. The public provided evidence that ad hoc members would lack understanding of the needs and desires of the Jackson area residents stripping the citizens of any legitimate political power through representation. Sean Kriletich pointed out that with two years left on the term “Direct election by the people is the most basic form of our democracy and it is especially important at the county level.” AWA staff countered that a special election process could cost in excess of $60K and that the Board of Supervisors were not informed to a level that would allow them to select an appropriate replacement.
Contrary to AWA staff estimates, Amador County Elections reports that the highest possible cost to hold a special election in District 1, providing all 4,223 voters showed at the polls, would be $21K. Using a historic voter turnout average of 70% that sum reduces to less than $15K- $45K short of the grossly inflated $60K cost presented to the AWA Board. Yet not one AWA Director asked for evidence of the cost nor was the $60K cost reflected in writing anywhere. Rubber stamping staff recommendations presented without support is, sadly, typical for the Board.
The board selected District 3 upcountry and District 5 Plymouth areas as the ad hoc committee members, further supporting the public’s complaint that a true understanding of their needs could be achieved. Jackson being the most active city and the county seat holds little comparison to constituency or geography of the ranchlands in Plymouth or the fire threatened forests of Pioneer and Buckhorn. District 2, Ione, and District 4, Sutter Creek, are much more similar to District 1. The AWA board forged ahead, ignoring the public, unanimously adopting the ad hoc committee and the process presented by staff.
On Jan. 26 the board unanimously approved the ad hocs recommendation of Paul Molinell Jr. to be effective on Feb. 1 2017. The committee stated their selection was based on his experience in customer service, in managing a county-wide organization, and for his familiarity with many of the regulatory requirements similar to those of the Agency. This vote brought two of the publics previously stated fears to fruition. This appointment furthered a sense many residents hold of a rigged system smacking “of cronyism, hidden agendas and a lack of respect for the people of District 1.” Second, the ad hoc committee’s explanation disregarded public concern for democracy and that their interests be considered.
With the announcement of this selection and prior to the vote, the public divulged a 20 year track record of Paul Jr. not only supporting large sub-division development and unbridled growth in Amador County but also known as a founding member and officer of pro-growth organizations. By owning the waste collection monopoly, Molinelli has a clear personal interest in favor of rapid and uncontrolled growth not to mention an expertise in rate raising.
It was shared that Paul participated in election campaigns for two Board of Supervisor incumbents setting up a Political Action Committee (PACs) that could receive indirect untraceable campaign donations. Both re-election campaigns, District 3 and District 4 lost their elections, strong evidence Paul has no understanding of the concerns of local voters. This also bodes poorly for the critical relationship required between the AWA board and the County Board of Supervisors. The AWA Board even contradicted its own polices by overlooking Molinelli’s written opposition to designating the Mokelumne River Wild and Scenic. AWA supported the W&S study in Sacramento, which is intended to lead to the designation.
In the eyes of four of the five seated AWA Directors, Paul Molinelli Jr. may be qualified to follow in the footsteps of his Father, but proof of his inability to represent ratepayers, tax payers and residents fairly, honestly, objectively and transparently is glaringly obvious from his 20 years of support for special interests. It is apparent through their actions that the AWA Board of Directors continues to hold no interest in listening to, representing or protecting the public from unnecessary rate increases. Molinelli will be up for re-election in November of 2018.