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DISTRICT Publication of the California Special Districts Association

Protecting your district and yourself from online fraud: Interview with Michael Bazzell

Volume 9, Issue 1, Jan - Feb 2014

Social Media: Avoid the Risks, Enjoy the Benefits

This issue will focus on:

Risk Management


CSDA FINANCE CORPORATION • Low cost financing • Flexible terms • Prompt delivery of funds

• Highly competitive interest rates (tax exempt) • Professional service & experienced consultants • Ability to administer financings of all sizes

CSDA Finance Corporation Specializing in Special Districts 877.924.CSDA | A proud California Special Districts Alliance partner.


Volume 9, Issue 1 • Jan - Feb 2014



Protecting Your District and Yourself from Online Fraud Interview with Michael Bazzell


Work in a Fishbowl Under a Spotlight: Sacramento Suburban Water District’s journey to transparency

6 CSDA News 2014 Board of Directors and Executive Committee, Save 10 Percent on Required Employment Posters, New Member Benefit: Discount on Translation Services, Districts Stronger Together 12 In Brief Water District Offers Local Contractors Five Percent Advantage, Historical Anchors to be Showcased at Harbor, Inspections Effectively Keep Harmful Mussels Away


Financial best practices for special districts

22 Solutions & Innovations Special Districts Going the Extra Mile 24 Community Connections Social media: Avoid the risks, enjoy the benefits.


Returning to the Earth: Davis Cemetery District

28 SDLF 2014 scholarship funds available for special districts 32 Managing Risk Spring safety/claims education day and legal update

26 Legal Brief Ethics Laws Are More Complex Than They May Appear: Training is Key

Printed on recycled paper. California Special District – Jan-Feb 2014

California © 2014. California Special Districts Association. All rights reserved.

Officers Noelle Mattock, President El Dorado Hills Community Services District Steve Perez, Vice President Rosamond Community Services District Vincent Ferrante, Secretary Moss Landing Harbor District William Nelson, Treasurer Orange County Cemetery District Stanley Caldwell, Past President Mt. View Sanitary District


CSDA-SDRMA partnership continues to benefit members

Members of the Board Jim Acosta, Saticoy Sanitary District Steve Esselman, North of the River Municipal Water District Elaine Freeman, Rancho Simi Recreation & Park District Jo MacKenzie, Vista Irrigation District Greg Orsini, McKinleyville Community Services District David Pierson, Sacremento Metropolitan Fire District Ginger Root, Country Club Sanitary District Timothy Ruiz, P.E., East Niles Community Services District Phil Schoefer, Western Shasta Resource Conservation District Sherry Sterrett, Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District Elaine Sullivan, Leucadia Wastewater District Kathy Tiegs, Cucamonga Valley Water District John Woolley, Manila Community Services District

CSDA Staff Neil McCormick, Executive Director Megan Hemming, Professional Development Director Cathrine Lemaire, Member Services Director Kyle Packham, Advocacy & Public Affairs Director Todd Winslow, Publications Director Emily Cha, Staff Assistant Nicole Dunn, Editor Sharon Foster, Professional Development Assistant Monica Greenberg, Business Development Specialist Dorothy Holzem, Legislative Representative Jess Lima, Legislative Assistant Christina Lokke, Legislative Representative Charlotte Lowe, Executive Assistant Jimmy MacDonald, Legislative Analyst Jacqueline McEvilly, Member Services Intern Miryam M. Barajas, Public Affairs Specialist James Wilfong, Senior Designer Travis Wills, Member Services Specialist Rick Wood, Finance Manager For editorial inquiries, contact Nicole Dunn at 877.924.2732 or For advertising inquiries, contact Diana Granger, Granger Marketing Works, at (530) 642-0111 or 1112 I Street, Suite 200 Sacramento, CA 95814 t: 916.442.7887 f: 916.442.7889 toll-free: 877.924.2732

Neil McCormick


of the things we value most at CSDA is our partnership in the California Special Districts Alliance. The partnerships that we develop are created with one purpose in mind - to assist CSDA members by adding value to how they govern, operate and serve their constituents. Since the theme of this issue of California Special District is risk management, it seems only fitting that I highlight a very important and longtime Alliance partner, the Special District Risk Management Authority (SDRMA). CSDA and SDRMA share many of the same values including quality service, fiscal integrity and stability, and providing member focused programs that add value to special districts. SDRMA was established to provide property, liability, workers’ compensation and health coverage protection and it is a clear leader in risk management by providing members with unmatched resources and services related to claims management and safety and loss prevention programs. Our partnership with SDRMA continues to strengthen year after year bringing member benefits like: • Free CSDA webinars. • Discounts on select workshops and conferences. • Reduced coverage contributions by earning Credit Incentive Points (CIPs) through participation in CSDA professional development programs.

A proud California Special Districts Alliance partner


• Discounts based on program participation in the Special District Leadership Foundation. • Access to risk management resources and free online safety training. • Holding the SDRMA Fall Safety/ Claims Education Day in conjunction with the CSDA Annual Conference and Exhibitor Showcase each year to reduce conference, hotel and traveling expenses for all of our members. Special district representatives govern both CSDA and SDRMA, and members can be confident that their best interests are at the forefront. Additionally, SDRMA’s track record in member growth, financial stability and actuarial confidence levels, which exceeds 95 percent (with industry averages in the 75-85 percent range), demonstrates why they make a great partner to CSDA and an outstanding choice for districts. Ultimately, risk management is their forte and they have proven to be among the best, receiving both the Special District Leadership Foundation District of Distinction Accreditation and California Association of JPA’s Accreditation with Excellence recognitions. There is a reason districts continue to join CSDA and SDRMA. I invite you to use the benefits and resources available to you as members and, if you are not yet part of this growing group, take a look at how your district could benefit!


SAVE MONEY! DISCOUNTED PRICING Special Districts Legislative Days


are making it even easier for you to attend Special Districts Legislative Days (SDLD) May 20-21 in Sacramento. For the first time, attendees at SDLD can take advantage of early bird registration discounts. All CSDA members registering for SDLD on or before April 18, 2014 will pay only $175 - a $50 savings from last year’s registration fee. SDLD attendees can also save on hotel accommodations by reserving their rooms at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento at the CSDA rate of only $149 plus tax single or double occupancy, including complimentary standard WiFi in guest rooms. Room reservations are available by calling 1-888-421-1442 and asking for the California Special Districts Association rate. The room reservation cutoff is April 28, however rooms may sell out before this date. Remember, your engagement is essential to CSDA’s advocacy efforts in Sacramento to defend special district finances and educate policy makers on the effective service delivery provided by special districts. Register today at

SAVE THE DATE! JUNE 22-24 General Manager Leadership Summit


2014 General Manager Leadership Summit, a leadership conference for general managers and other staff in special districts, will be held at the Resort at Squaw Creek in beautiful Lake Tahoe, California June 22 -24. Room reservations are now available at the rate of $169 single/double plus tax by calling 1-800-403-4434 and asking for the CSDA General Manager Leadership Summit Rate. The room reservation cut-off is Friday, June 14, however rooms are expected to fill before that date. The CSDA room rate includes the resort fee which includes wireless internet access as well as complimentary self-parking. Don’t miss out on this valuable opportunity to come together with other special district leaders from throughout the state to network and learn more about your specific job responsibilities.

California Special District – Jan-Feb 2014

March March 5


Required Ethics Compliance Training – AB 1234

March 7


Special District Leadership Academy: Board’s Role in Human Resources, Bakersfield

March 11


What is A Public Record? How to Comply with the Public Records Act

March 13


New Developments Under PEPRA

March 18


SDRMA Safety/Claims Education Day, Sacramento

March 20


Affordable Care Act – Present and Future

March 25


Talent Management: Building Your Workplace

March 27


Legislative Round-Up

April 2


Ask the Experts: CSDA Finance Corporation

April 8


Incident Writing: Just the Facts

April 10


Best Practices in Agenda Preparation and Taking/ Recording Minutes

April 23


Records Retention and Management

April 25


Special District Leadership Academy: Setting Direction/ Community Leadership, Bakersfield

April 29


Proposition 218, Proposition 26 and Rate Setting


For complete program descriptions and information about registration and accommodations, visit us online at or call CSDA at (877) 924-2732.



The 2014 CSDA Board elections concluded in August of 2013. Below are the members of the 2014 CSDA Board of Directors and Executive Committee. 2014 EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE • Noelle Mattock, President • Steve Perez, Vice President • Bill Nelson, Treasurer • Vince Ferrante, Secretary • Stanley Caldwell, Past President REGION 1 • Greg Orsini, McKinleyville Community Services District • Phil Schoefer, Western Shasta Resource Conservation District • John Woolley, Manila Community Services District REGION 2 • Noelle Mattock, El Dorado Hills Community Services District • David Pierson, Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District • Ginger Root, Tuxedo Country Club Fire Protection District REGION 3 • Stanley Caldwell, Mt. View Sanitary District • Vincent Ferrante, Moss Landing Harbor District • Sherry Sterrett, Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District REGION 4 • Steve Esselman, North of the River Municipal Water District • Steve Perez, Rosamond Community Services District • Tim Ruiz, East Niles Community Services District REGION 5 • Jim Acosta, Saticoy Sanitary District • Elaine Freeman, Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District • Kathy Tiegs, Cucamonga Valley Water District REGION 6 • Jo MacKenzie, Vista Irrigation District • Bill Nelson, Orange County Cemetery District • Elaine Sullivan, Leucadia Wastewater District


Make sure your agency has the most current employment notices posted as required by law. CalChamber has made compliance both easy and affordable by offering CSDA members a discount on the combined 2014 California and Federal Employment Notices poster and other compliance products. Visit and enter priority code CSDAR at checkout or call 800.331.8877 for more information.

NEW MEMBER BENEFIT: DISCOUNT ON TRANSLATION SERVICES Is your agency required to post information in several languages? Avantpage is a full-services translation and interpretation company that provides solutions to cross-cultural communication challenges. With expertise in more than 150 languages, they specialize in compliance and regulatory concerns. CSDA members now receive 20 percent off translation services with priority code CSDA-2014. Call 1.877.ANY.LANG for more details or visit

DISTRICTS STRONGER TOGETHER Last year 50 agencies joined CSDA, bringing our membership up to 1,031 members strong. Thanks to our enthusiastic core membership, dedicated board and staff, and a host of supporting organizations, CSDA continues to reach the robust recruitment and retention rates that allow us to expand our programs and our influence on behalf of special districts. Currently we are offering non-member agencies the opportunity to learn what we’re all about with a free 90-day trial membership. Prospective members gain access to many benefits, including discounts for workshops and webinars, online resources, legislative updates and more. If you know of a district that is missing out on the services and benefits CSDA membership provides, please let them know about this limited time offer. Districts must sign up by April 1, 2014 to get the full 90 days free. Call Member Services at 877.924.2732 for details.

WEBSITE NEW California Special District’s Association






2014 is shaping up to be a dynamic year for special districts. To help prepare for the year, CSDA surveyed members for input on the issues that matter most to special districts. The top responses included: revenue, finances and taxation; governance and accountability; human resources and personnel issues; and infrastructure. The following is a brief update from the Capitol on these top issues facing special districts, along with tips on what you can do to get involved in state-wide advocacy.


REVENUE, FINANCES AND TAXATION As Redevelopment Agencies’ (RDAs’) enforceable obligations continue to be paid off, property tax increment is being restored to the core local services from which it was previously diverted. Approximately $310 million has returned to special districts in 2011 12 and 2012 13 combined. This year, expect to hear more about new economic development proposals (RDA 2.0) in the Capitol, including legislative bills supporting Governor Brown’s Fiscal Year 2014-15 State Budget Proposal to expand the flexibility of existing infrastructure financing districts (IFDs). The governor’s proposal, in line with CSDA’s policy principles, prohibits the diversion of property tax revenue away from special districts and other local agencies without their consent. TAKE ACTION: Join special district officials from across the state at Special Districts Legislative Days, May 20-21 in Sacramento to advocate for proposals that ensure protection of local revenue.

Access mobilization tools to advocate on the latest critical issues affecting special districts. GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY


Scheduled for the June 2014 Primary Election, Senate Constitutional Amendment 3 proposes to change the reimbursement status of the Brown Act and Public Records Act mandates. Passed by the Legislature last year, the initiative eliminates state reimbursement for current as well as any future open meetings or public records mandates.

Pension reform and the Public Employee Pension Reform Act (PEPRA) continue to be active issues in legislative hearings, regulatory meetings and a potential November 2014 ballot measure.

The passage of SCA 3 could open the gates to endless new mandates on local government, with the state no longer required to pay for the new mandates. Therefore, new legislative proposals to create further restrictions and requirements for local agencies are expected in the coming years. CSDA will continue to advocate for proposals that enhance special districts’ ability to govern as independent, local government bodies in an open and accessible manner and encourage best practices that avoid burdensome, costly or redundant requirements. TAKE ACTION: Make sure to checkout the 2014 Education Catalog and sign-up for webinars, conferences and trainings that cover the Brown Act and California Public Records Act. These provide information your district needs to stay current and in compliance.

California Special District – Nov-Dec 2013

The Legislature and CalPERS are expected to take action this year to continue the ongoing implementation of PEPRA and mitigate some of its unintended consequences. Moreover, CalPERS will continue to seek a fully funded status through several potential rate increases due to adjustments that were postponed during the recent recession and to reflect the new demographics of CalPERS members. Through the ballot process, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed seeks the ability to change pension plans of current employees. Courts have ruled that benefits already earned, known as “vested rights,” cannot be reduced, which has been interpreted to block any change to current employees’ benefits. Mayor Reed’s initiative proposal would empower local governments to prospectively change pension benefit offerings for current employees—in other words, protect all benefits earned to-date, but change benefits earned going forward. TAKE ACTION: Visit CSDA’s online Grassroots Action Center to access the latest information on advocacy efforts and the latest information on CalPERS.

INFRASTRUCTURE INNOVATION AND INVESTMENT Funding for greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction projects continues to be a potential source of new revenue for local agencies. The governor’s Fiscal Year 2014-15 Budget Proposal allocates $850 million in cap-andtrade auction revenues to existing and pilot programs that promote GHG emissions reductions. The governor proposes spending this revenue on rail projects, including High-Speed Rail, sustainable planning, implementation of the state’s Water Action Plan, fire protection programs, urban forestry, waste diversion and many other GHG reduction programs. While currently there is no specific program dedicating auction proceeds to local governments, many special districts will be eligible for a number of the proposed programs. CSDA continues to advocate for specifically allocating a portion of the capand-trade auction revenues to local government green programs. TAKE ACTION: Pass a resolution to support the Local Climate Initiative which advocates supporting legislation that directs cap-and-trade auction revenues and other green revenue to local government green programs. A sample resolution can be found online at CSDA’s Grassroots Action Center at


Ask theExperts

If a district moves its regular board meeting up one week due to some of the directors’ schedule or any other reason, does the meeting become a “special” meeting or is it still considered a “regular” board meeting? It will be a special meeting unless specific procedures are followed. There are three types of meetings under the Brown Act. Regular meetings generally occur at a time and location set by ordinance, resolution, or bylaws. An agenda must be posted at least 72 hours prior to a regular meeting. Special meetings may occur at any time so long as written notice is provided at least 24 hours prior to the meeting to each member of the legislative body and to each media outlet that has requested notice in writing. Emergency meetings may also occur at any time, however, they are held only when prompt action is needed due to an actual or threatened disruption of public facilities. Verbal notice must be provided to each member of the legislative body and to the news media by telephone at least one hour in advance of the emergency meeting.


Bear in mind that the type of meeting dictates the type of notice required, not the other way around. This means that posting an agenda 72 hours before a meeting does not make a meeting a regular meeting. As noted above, the agency’s regular meeting time and location is typically set by ordinance, resolution or bylaws. However, adjourning a regular meeting to a specified time and place makes the subsequent meeting a regular meeting, so long as the order of adjournment specifies the meeting time and place and the order is posted within 24 hours on or near the door of the place where the regular meeting was held. The subsequent meeting is known as an “adjourned regular meeting.” For our hypothetical, assume a resolution states that regular board meetings shall be held on the second Monday of each month at District headquarters. If a Director wishes to move the regular meeting of Monday, February 10, 2014 to February 3, the February 3 meeting will be a special meeting unless the Directors adjourned the January 13 regular meeting to February 3 and posted the notice of adjournment on District headquarters doors 24 hours after the January 13 meeting. The type of meeting matters because certain actions may only be taken at regular meetings. For example, the Brown Act now requires that discussions regarding salary, salary schedule, or other form of compensation for any local agency executive be heard only at a regular meeting. Your agency’s local rules or enabling act may have additional restrictions. Alexandra Barnhill is a partner in the Oakland office of Burke, Williams and Sorensen, LLP. She has acted as a trusted advisor and legal counselor to special districts, cities, and joint powers agencies since 2005.


MOVERS AND SHAKERS Does your district have an individual recently appointed as general manager or a top staff position? Have you recently elected a new board president? Have any district personnel been appointed to other community boards or positions? Email your district’s movers and shakers to Nicole Dunn, communication specialist, at and we will include them in our next issue!

Mesa Water District welcomes Andrew Hamilton, CPA, as its Chief Financial Officer. Hamilton previously managed his own consulting firm, providing senior-level interim management services in accounting and finance for Fortune 1000 companies.

For the 12th consecutive year, the Santa Clara County Library District has been rated among the top public libraries in the United States. For 2013, the district was awarded the top rating of five stars, and ranked fourth among large libraries in the Library Journal Index of Public Library Service.

Andrew Hamilton

The Mission Springs Water District Board of Directors unanimously elected Director Russ Martin to President of the Board. Martin will serve one term.

Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District and CSDA Board Member Sherry Sterrett has been selected to serve as the district’s chairperson for 2014. This is the fifth time Sterrett has served in this position.

Placer County Water Agency Director Joshua Alpine has been elected by his fellow directors to serve as 2014 chairman of the Placer County Water Agency Board of Directors. Director Primo Santini, was elected as 2014 vice chairman.

In December 2013, Mt. View Sanitary District Board Members Gregory Pyka and CSDA Past President Stanley Caldwell were honored with resolutions for 20 years of service to the district. Both members were elected to the board in December 1993. Caldwell has also been named president of the Mt. View Sanitary District Board of Directors and Pyka was named vice president.

Dave Brown has retired as general manager from the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District after 30 years of service. During his tenure, Brown developed one of the most comprehensive and well-respected mosquito control programs in the nation and worked to ensure and protect public health and safety for over 1.5 million district residents. Vista Irrigation District has been selected as a winner of a U-T San Diego Top Workplace award, which annually recognizes the best companies to work for in San Diego County. The district received the award for 2013 in the small business category, which consists of companies that employ fewer than 100 people. Anne Walker, board member of the Rescue Fire Protection District, has been appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the California State Board of Fire Services.

Gregory Pyka & Stanley Caldwell

David Hutchinson has been elected to serve as Livermore Area Recreation and Park District’s board president for 2014. Director Bob Coomber was elected to serve as vice president. Anne Walker

California Special District – Jan-Feb 2014

In Brief Historical Anchors to be Showcased at Harbor

Water District Offers Local Contractors Five Percent Advantage The Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors has unanimously approved an ordinance to establish a local business preference in some types of procurement of goods and non-professional services. The preference will give local businesses a five percent advantage over non-local businesses. A district analysis concluded that local businesses are at a competitive disadvantage due to the high cost of doing business in Santa Clara County. According to the analysis, the new policy serves the public interest by encouraging businesses to locate and remain in the jurisdiction through the provision of a minimal good faith preference to local businesses. According to Board Member Barbara Keegan, it is the public’s interest to enable local businesses to do business more easily with the water district because businesses spend money in their own community, which in turn benefits the county’s economy. Director Richard P. Santos long championed the ordinance and believe is shows “that this board comes together and cares about the residents, the taxpayers and the business people. This is just a good thing. We’re investing back into our community.” The ordinance only applies to certain types of procurement under California law.

Last summer, massive anchors that once belonged to historical ships were dredged up from Crescent City Harbor District’s port. They were found during dredging of material from the outer boat basin of the port. Most of the anchors appear to belong to World War II-era military surplus and one is believed to have come from the very beginning of white settlement in Del Norte County – between 1850 to 1880. During that time it was not uncommon to have large steamships anchor in Crescent City. Harbor officials hope to use the pieces as focal points around the port. This fits with the district’s goal of attracting more tourists and new businesses to the harbor.

Inspections Effectively Keep Harmful Mussels Away Boat inspections, organized by the Tahoe Resource Conservation District and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, intercepted over 35 vessels harboring invasive species during the 2013 boating season. The inspections watched for the quagga and zebra mussels – species that are not established in the area and could wreak havoc on Tahoe’s environment and economy. Officials with the agencies performed over 7,000 inspections last year, decontaminating over 4,200 – 36 of which were infested with invasive plants, mussels or snails. Decontamination consists of spraying hot water at a high pressure on a boat’s hull, motor and other areas.


Water District Partners with University for Continuing Education Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD) has partnered with UC Riverside (UCR) on a program that will allow for continuing education opportunities for EMWD employees. Under the terms of the partnership, EMWD employees will have access to a significant discount on their tuition in three Master’s degree programs: Professional Accountancy, Business Administration and Finance. Participants will be able to take classes that accommodate their work schedules. Similar educational partnerships exist between the district and California Baptist University, University of Phoenix, University of Redlands, Brandman University and University of La Verne. Says EMWD Board President Phil Paule, “[EMWD] appreciate[s] the opportunity to partner on this great program with a renowned university such as UCR. Allowing EMWD employees to continue their education in a cost-effective manner will allow our staff to further develop the skills that will benefit our ratepayers.”


California Special District wants to hear about newsworthy people, projects, events and accomplishments in your district. To submit a news item for In Brief, contact Nicole Dunn at or (877) 924-2732.

Ice Rink A Success The newly opened ice skating rink in Paradise is a resounding success. “We’ve had a very successful year. People love it,” says Paradise Recreation and Park District Manager Mike Trinca. “Our goal was to make this balance out cost-wise in three years. If we keep going like we have been, we’ll do it in a year and a half for sure.” The rink cost the district about $250,000 for installing power, renting the rink, setting it up and staffing. Trinca credits the success to good weather and the general good feeling people get from ice skating. The rink is bringing a lot of out-of-towners, which is great for the small town of Paradise and helps with the revenue.

New Community Center in Discovery Bay Discovery Bay Community Services District has opened its new community center to the public. The district purchased the facility last year with plans of making it a town hub and resource for the community to get together. The new center has a room for arts and crafts and a full slate of classes, including Zumba, yoga, adult dance and children’s programs, is scheduled throughout the year. Creating a community center has been a goal for the district for almost three decades. “This is something that everyone owns as residents of Discovery Bay,” says Board Vice President Kevin Graves.

Sources: Contra Costa Times, Del Norte Triplicate, Napa Sanitation District, Paradise Post, Santa Clara Valley Water District, Tahoe Daily Tribune, The Press-Enterprise

California Special District – Jan-Feb 2014

Sanitation District Achieves Fish Friendly Farming Certification Napa Sanitation District (NSD) has become the first sanitation district to receive Fish Friendly Farming (FFF) Certification for properties that it manages. The certification, bestowed by the California Land Stewardship Institute, recognizes that the district’s land management practices help to protect water quality and fish habitat on 750 acres of district land. NSD owns two farm properties that are used by the district for beneficial reuse of recycled water and biosolids. Under contract with the district, local farmers use land at both ranches to grow livestock feed, which thrives from the application of the nutrient rich bi-products of wastewater treatment. “Many of the District’s land management practices on the ranches already aligned with the FFF program,” points out Dave Martin, Recycled Water Manager for the District. “The conservation plan we developed during the FFF certification process helped fine tune the District’s management practices for elements such as roads, irrigation, drainage and creeks.” Soscol Creek, which runs through Somky Ranch, has been identified as an important habitat for steelhead trout. During 2011 and 2012, the District implemented a restoration project along the creek that improves habitat for fish and other wildlife. The project included removal of invasive plant species and planting of native species along the riparian corridor, improving the forage and shelter values of the creek for migrating fish, birds and mammals. “Good stewardship of the land we manage complements our mission of protecting public health and the Napa River,” says Tim Healy, NSD General Manager. “We protect the watershed with both safe wastewater treatment and healthy land management practices.”

Protecting Your District and Yourself from Online Fraud Interview with Michael Bazzell, Computer Crime Specialist

Online fraud is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. As the use of technology grows and evolves, so do the methods criminals can use to access important, confidential information for individuals and businesses. Is your special district prepared against cyberattacks? Are your employees properly educated on what to look out for? California Special District asked Michael Bazzell, a computer crime specialist currently assigned to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cyber Crimes Task Force, to explain the current trends in online fraud, what forms of attack special districts are vulnerable to and how to best prepare against those attacks. You have extensive background in law enforcement. Tell us more about your experience. I began my career as a street patrolman and was promoted to investigations after three years. Computer crime was just starting to become popular, and my background in computers made me a decent candidate for computer forensic training. Much of it was being in the right place at the right time. I had always had an interest in computers, and few cops had the desire to learn about technology at that time (1999-2000). From there, I helped form the Regional Computer Crime Enforcement Group in the metro-east St. Louis area. We became the primary resource for computer crime investigation for most surrounding police departments.

Michael Bazzell Computer Crime Specialist


In 2004, the FBI formed a new cyber task force in the area, and I transitioned into the new role. I spent several years investigating incidents involving child solicitation and the distribution of child pornography. After many cases, search warrants, and rescued children, I was requested to join the computer intrusion unit. I now focus on intrusions into computer networks and

Online fraud changes every day. Cyber criminals adapt their techniques constantly in order to always stay one step ahead of victims.

breaches of data. I work with large corporations and small companies when they are “hacked,” and try to track down every aspect of the incident.

What are some of the recent trends of online fraud? Online fraud changes every day. Cyber criminals adapt their techniques constantly in order to always stay one step ahead of victims. Lately, many hacking groups focus on stealing a large amount of data from a company. This may be credit card numbers, login credentials, or private personal information such as SSN’s. The groups find it much more lucrative to put the time into stealing large databases of information instead of targeting individuals. Recent attacks such as those against Target and Adobe are typical of these cases. In the Target attack, criminals stole the credit card details of millions of people, while the Adobe attack provided millions of email addresses and password hints of victims.

Explain what cyberattacks you think local government agencies are most susceptible to. I believe the most probable attack against local government agencies is spear-phishing. Standard phishing has been around for many years. When you receive an email that appears to be from your bank, it is likely a phishing attack. These messages use a scare tactic to make you think that your account has been compromised, and provides an internet link that will allow you access to your account to protect your money. Of course, the link forwards to a cloned website that is visually similar to the real bank website, and

California Special District – Jan-Feb 2014

the criminals hope that you provide your user name and password to gain access. As soon as you do, they access your real account and do as much damage as possible in a short amount of time. Spear-phishing takes things to a different level. The following is a scenario that I would use if I were going to target a specific entity. I would do my homework and research the entity. I would look up current and previous hiring opportunities for a position such as computer technician or network administrator. These posts probably include a reference to the type of systems that are present, such as the operating system of your network or the type of database that is used. It is common for a recruitment post to mention required skills such as “SQL Server Administration” or “Microsoft Exchange Administration.” Both of these tell me enough about your environment to start an attack. I would then create a list of employee names that I want to target. I would do this through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. In my presentations, I show how a hacker can create a list of over 75 percent of a business’ employees by scraping these social networks in less than five minutes. I would then locate a few official email addresses from the company’s website in order to identify the format of all email addresses for the employees. For example, if I find Bob Wilson’s email address is b.wilson@company. com, I know that Mary Johnson is, and Tom Williams is I would use Excel to generate the list for me. continued on page 16

Michael Bazzell [continued] Now that I have the email addresses of my targets, I would generate a custom bulk message similar to the following: Dear Employee, As you may know, our Microsoft Exchange Server was partially compromised in an early morning attack. Fortunately, all of your information is safe; however, we need you to reset your password immediately. Any accounts that have not been converted by the end of the day will be disabled. Please click the following link to update your account. This email would be sent from a free program that will “spoof” an email address and name to be anything desired. I would search on LinkedIn to find the name of your computer network administrator and make the email appear to be from him or her. The shady link in the message would forward to a server that I have full access to. As soon as you log in, I have your current credentials to your email account. I would use these to access your real account and look for bank statements, company accounts, etc. I might even send a quick note to everyone in your contact list telling them that I (you) are stuck in the U.K. and need $1,000 to get a new passport. I only need one person to respond and wire me money to make it worth my effort. Ultimately, I will use your user name and password combination on any business networks that you may have access to such as online email or private VPNs. It is likely that most of your readers have received several messages similar to these. If these methods did not work, we would not receive so many of them. Every day, several employees fall for these scams.

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What advice do you have for public agencies in protecting themselves from online fraud and hacking? The first priority is to protect your passwords from several angles. Never log into any suspicious website. If there is anything that does not appear legitimate, get out. Never click on a link within an email and then log into the responding website. If you receive an email from your computer administrator telling you to reset your password, don’t click any links. Instead, navigate to your login process as you normally would and see if you are prompted to change your password. Make sure that you have a strong password. During my live demonstrations, I allow someone to set up a password to protect a file. This is usually something simple such as a child’s name. I then allow a free program to crack that password in less than two seconds. This is why so many websites demand that your password has letters, numbers, and special characters. These rules make the cracking process much more difficult. Finally, make sure that you do not have one password for everything. Never use the same password on your Facebook account and your work email account. I recommend different passwords for personal websites, financial accounts, work-related accounts, and online shopping outlets. You are likely to have one of your personal accounts compromised at some point. Don’t allow that to affect your more valuable accounts.

Local government agencies often times operate with tight budgets. What are cost-effective methods these agencies can use to prevent a data breach? I believe that absolute best method for tight budgets is training. Many of the companies I have spoken with rarely train their employees. They purchase

very expensive software and hire security monitoring companies to help thwart off amateur hackers. These solutions cannot catch everything. I prefer to focus on detailed explanations and demonstrations to employees of how these criminals are attacking entities every day. You can have the best security software ever created and a hacker can still get through your system. All it takes is one untrained employee whot does not know to closely examine every link within an unsolicited email and to verify that he or she is really talking on the telephone with a representative of their payroll company (and not a hacker). Thieves rely on businesses to place more emphasis on high-tech protection and to have less interest in employee awareness. Fortunately, I also see organizations that continuously train employees of the latest cyber threats. These groups tend to see less successful attacks.

What are the first steps an agency should take if they fall victim to a data breach or other online fraud? If the compromise involves a breach to the business network, I recommend contacting the local FBI office. Cyber task forces have been implemented nationwide and are prepared to tackle these events. If the fraud involves a personal account, such as a hacked bank account, I recommend contacting your local police department. There will be very little they can do, especially if the suspect is in a different country. However, you will be issued a report number that will be needed when you cancel your credit cards and demand reimbursement of any lost funds. If you believe your password was compromised, change all of your passwords associated with other accounts right away. Due to the majority of these attacks occurring from overseas, much of the responsibility will lie with the victim.

What are some steps an individual should take to protect their own personal data? The previously mentioned information about passwords is relevant here too. Additionally, I encourage people to consider the following: • Be cautious about the content that you post online. If your Twitter account mentions your upcoming vacation to Hawaii, you are helping a burglar. If your LinkedIn account summarizes your duties at your workplace, you are helping a potential cyberattacker. If your Facebook page has photos of your child with a nickname of “Mikey”, and your security question on your bank account is “What is my son’s nickname?”, you are really asking for trouble. Surprisingly, hackers have all of the time in the world to identify the smallest of vulnerabilities in your life. • Be suspicious of “Free Wireless” networks. These are broadcasted by criminals in order to monitor your activity and steal your credentials. If you are at an airport, hotel or coffee shop using the free wireless network, consider the type

California Special District – Jan-Feb 2014

of data that you are transmitting. Reading a news article, printing a boarding pass, or researching a restaurant are all fine. However, you will never see me check my primary email account or financial accounts on these networks. • Finally, people need to protect their computers. Most business systems are guarded by software running from the server. However, your home networks are equally as important. Every PC should have active antivirus running at all times. A scan for malicious software and “spyware” should be conducted weekly. Cleaning unnecessary files such as “cookies” and temporary files will also help keep things tidy. I always maintain a web page with access to the free resources that I recommend at Overall, I know that we cannot stop all computer crime. However, I truly believe that you can prevent it from happening to you. Following some general rules will prevent you from being the easiest target for the criminal. Keeping a close eye on your online activity will help you avoid becoming the next victim on my incident list.

Work in a fishbowl under a spotlight:



February 2002, Sacramento Suburban Water District (SSWD) was formed through the merger of two longstanding Sacramento-area water districts: Northridge Water District and Arcade Water District. While merging the two districts was a good decision, the way the merger was implemented was lacking. Little thought was given to merging the staffs and the business systems of both of the districts, including the software systems that handled accounting, billing, customer information, work orders, purchasing and payroll.

By Robert Roscoe, General Manager, Sacramento Suburban Water District

In the fall of 2002, improper use of overtime was reported to the SSWD Board of Directors, and subsequent inquiries by the board led to a decision to engage a special audit of district finances. The scope of the special audit was expanded at the end of 2002 and from there, based on what was discovered in the audit, things swiftly began to unravel. The local newspaper, the Sacramento Bee, ran both front page headlines and an op-ed series focusing on this being yet another example of how local governments operate in the shadows, apart from public scrutiny. Both the general manager and assistant general manager retired at this time. I was hired as the new general manager and started March 10, 2003. Needless to say, the situation that was taking place was one of the top priorities for me to manage. 18

The Audit The special audit was completed and released to the public at its March 17, 2003 board meeting. The audit revealed a number of significant concerns including, but not limited to: improper use of overtime, improper handling of payroll, including under-withholding of payroll tax and failure to file proper IRS Forms W-2 and 1099, unauthorized payments to executive management, and improper accounting of travel expense reimbursements. At my first regular board meeting, I was directed to: collect all monies owed to the district, reissue IRS Form W-2s for the past four active tax years, report all findings to the County District Attorney, and file a complaint against the former auditor requesting revocation of his CPA license. The revised Form W-2s affected roughly half of all staff and four of the seven elected board members. Board members were particularly incensed with the former auditor who had, for over a decade, reported annually that everything was fine.

destroyed and intentionally “misfiled.” We spent a considerable effort ensuring we were thorough in our searches and providing all requested information. The other effort that started right away was to begin to create a culture of openness and transparency with the public and with staff. While not having any ownership of the recent history of fiscal irregularities made that job a bit easier personally, it didn’t continued on page 20


Information submitted to the County District Attorney resulted in the immediate initiation of six separate investigations. The County Grand Jury, the County District Attorney, the US Attorney’s Office, a Federal Grand Jury, the FBI, and the IRS Criminal Investigation Division all requested access to any and all district records. Some requests were in written letter form and some were under federal subpoena.

Turning Things Around In the midst of all of this, the first priority was to keep the water utility functioning. This meant ensuring provision of quality water supply, providing customer service, ensuring compliance with the many regulatory permits required to operate a water utility, processing billing and payments, and so on. We made immediate changes to how labor and expenses were recorded and approved, and installed a system of financial checks and balances. As the merger skipped over the district’s human resources, significant time and effort was spent with staff on basic elements such as the organization chart, job descriptions, salary schedules and the like. So that instructions were more than verbal, we wrote a number of policies for board consideration, and wrote procedures for staff to understand how those policies were expected to be implemented. Fortunately, we had a lot of really good people who not only embraced the changes, but participated in their development. In my first month, I received a federal subpoena issued to the “custodian of records.” I had no idea who that was, and learned from the FBI that if I hadn’t previously assigned someone to that position, it was me. So high on the priority list was responding to the six separate investigations underway. We had to certify that we were providing all records, and there were not any others. The district owns well over 100 properties and most of those have structures…pump houses, chemical feed rooms, storage buildings and the like. We knew records had been both

California Special District – Jan-Feb 2014

• Work in a fishbowl under a spotlight. First and foremost, conduct

the public’s business in public. Pretend news reporters are watching all the time, it’s a very slow news day, and they are hungry for anything. • Bad news never gets any better by sitting on it. We are all human and we all are prone to making mistakes. Admit mistakes when made, correct them, and then correct the processes, provide additional training, or adjust the circumstances that led to the mistake. Address problems early and often; left alone they have a terrible habit of growing, sometimes exponentially. • Try to be in front of the public’s need for information. Instead of having a customer complete a Freedom of Information Act data request, respond by saying, “Certainly you can have that information. Would you prefer hard copy or electronic?” And much better yet is being able to say, “That information is already posted on our website. Here is the link.” Your website is your friend – use it. • The job is never done, you must continuously work to guard against backsliding. Operating in an open and public manner is sometimes uncomfortable, and always a lot of work. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it is easy. It takes constant dedication and effort, to the time required and to the budget required. Websites don’t update themselves. • Expand the scope of your annual audit. You can buy a lot of additional comfort by having the auditor sample all transactions, no matter how insignificant or relevant to the bottom line of your financial statements. Big problems often started as small ones that were ignored.

Work in a fishbowl [continued from page 19] The Public’s Reaction From the public, there was considerable apprehension regarding our ability to reverse course, operate in an open and transparent fashion and not revert to “the old habits.” I think many were relieved to see our tenacity in adhering to a transparent operation. We certainly had a number of well attended board meetings. We had to ensure that when we said, “I don’t know, but I will find out,” we were diligent in getting the answers and daylighting all relevant information. diminish the magnitude of the effort required. An entire paradigm shift was required. We had to reverse our internal culture from one of a “family operation” to an internal culture that used the word “public” in every other sentence. Public finances, public records, public reporting at public meetings, all became part of our lexicon. While we did have a considerable turnover in the first year, it was generally accepted that how things used to be was not the way things should have been. Again, our staff was excellent, and largely embraced the changes.


In particular, the district’s finances were in an unsustainable spiral. Prior to merging, both predecessor districts deferred needed rate increases, dipped precipitously into reserve accounts, and were not generating sufficient revenues to cover daily operations, let alone capital improvements and replacements. We needed nearly a 50 percent rate increase simply to quit bleeding reserves. Explaining the need for a dramatic rate increase while still on the front pages of the newspaper for fiscal irregularities was a major challenge. Fortunately, we were able to recover every nickel of money that the special


District Transparency Certificate of Excellence audit identified as being owed to the district, including all legal costs spent recovering the monies owed. While the district had lost credibility and trust in how it was managed and operated, completely recovering all monies owed certainly helped ease friction with public perception. Fully opening our books and records, and conducting all operations in a transparent fashion was essential to regaining public trust. Having written policies and procedures was important so the public and our staff - could see in writing how we intended to operate.

Going Forward: Ensuring History Doesn’t Repeat Itself The number one practice we implemented going forward was to increase the scope of our annual audit. We learned that an auditor can comply with basic auditing standards and really not dig very deeply into routine transactions. Quite a bit can be going on and not be reported in a standard annual audit. Because we have hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure associated with our water system, our overall financial statements are large. Relatively large individual transactions are not considered material to our financial statements. For a very modest additional fee, we increased the scope of work of our annual audit to require a sampling of all transactions, regardless of whether they were material to the overall financial statements. We now have the auditor check all paychecks for everyone who can touch payroll, sample all inventory processes with a random check of specific items, check every expense reimbursement to executive staff and elected officials, and do a sampling of other reimbursements. We even require a sampling of petty cash transactions for proper approvals and receipts. In addition to sending a positive message to the public and our elected officials, it sends a very strong message to staff. Because we are going to

California Special District – Jan-Feb 2014

randomly sample everything, regardless of materiality, you do not want to be the one who was found missing a receipt for a petty cash reimbursement for a $2.00 parking charge. The strong message to all is that we are going to pay attention to properly accounting for all public monies, no matter the magnitude. We strive to catch and stop any small transgressions before they become larger. Other practices followed over the subsequent few years were focused on ensuring there was no retrogression in our commitment to be transparent. If there were suggestions for improvement from our annual audit, we addressed them. If there were suggestions for operations modifications from our external liability and safety inspections, we reported what was found and addressed them. We

See pages 28-29 for more information.

upgraded our website to allow easy access to public information, including an easy link to request public information not posted. If a customer asked why a particular item wasn’t on our website, we posted it. A common frequently asked question was: “Shouldn’t that be on our website?” We formed an internal customer outreach committee and empowered them to initiate new ideas and practices, and we committed funding from our annual budget to support their efforts. Sacramento Suburban Water District is now doing well. We have completed asset management plans to identify our infrastructure sustainability shortcomings, and our board has acted to recognize those needs by adopting multiple year rate increases intended to gradually close the gap in required infrastructure funding.

Providing California Special Districts with quality representation and trusted legal advice on a broad spectrum of contracts and construction matters, including: - Competitive Bidding - Contract Award - Purchasing Agreements - Real Property and Facilities - Intergovernmental Agreements - Bid Protests - Surplus Property Issues - Management Training For more information, please visit |


Los Angeles | San Francisco | Fresno | San Diego

[Solutions & Innovations]

Special Districts Going the Extra Mile Seats for Kids When people think of how fire districts help them, they of course think of fire fighting and suppression efforts and emergency services. But many fire districts in California go above and beyond in working to keep communities safe. One such way is through child safety seat inspections. Motor vehicle accidents are the number one killer of children. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, child safety seats reduce the number of child fatalities by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers. Many parents utilize child safety seats but may not have those seats installed properly. Common installation mistakes include not using the right safety seat for the child’s size and age, not installing it in the proper direction, incorrect use of locking clips for certain vehicle safety belts and incorrect installation and tightness of the child safety seat to the vehicle seat.


you’re reading this article, you are most likely well versed in the myriad of core, important public works special districts provide. The public receives so many important services often without even having to think about where it is coming from. From turning on the tap and getting water to taking their children to local parks and libraries, to laying a loved one to rest, citizens receive important works from special districts every day. Many special districts in California go above and beyond performing the services they were established to provide. In countless ways, districts develop and administer programs that help to enrich the lives of their constituents. Many times these added programs work to keep the public safe and avoiding any undue risk. Here are just a few of those programs.


Aptos/La Selva Fire Protection District, Scotts Valley Fire Protection District and Boulder Creek Fire Protection District are some such agencies who provide this service. During the inspections, certified technicians inspect the child safety seat to see that it has been properly installed, inspect the seat for any damage, ensure the seat is not a model that has been recalled, teach the automobile owner the correct procedure to properly install the seat and show the parent how to secure the child into the seat. Each inspection is very thorough and takes about 30 – 50 minutes to complete.

Mosquitofish Mosquito and vector control districts around California use and make available to the public a unique threat to mosquitoes: mosquitofish. These fish, also known as Gambusia affinis, are an efficient biological control method used in mosquito control. Districts, including Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control District and Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District, grow the fish in their own ponds and deliver them to residents upon request. The fish are small, livebearing fish closely related to the common guppy.

SHARE YOUR SOLUTIONS & INNOVATIONS Do you have a new program, process or facility that increases efficiency, reduces costs, improves service or otherwise helps make your community a better place to live? California Special District wants to know about it! Contact Nicole Dunn at or (877) 924-2732.

They are excellent breeders, with each brood having 40-100 young each. Specialists with mosquito and vector control districts use the fish to control mosquito populations in sources like irrigation districts, ponds, un-maintained swimming pools and wetlands. Mosquitofish prey on mosquito larvae and pupae – large female mosquitofish can consume up to 500 larvae per day. Many mosquito and vector control districts provide the fish at no cost to residents for placement on their property. Some deliver and plant the fish with their own technicians, others offer the residents the option to do so themselves. Planting the fish is easy – residents need only place the container with the fish directly into the water source for 30 minutes to an hour until they are the same temperature as the water, then release them. The fish are a safe, chemical-free way to keep mosquito populations under control on a resident’s property.

Frozen Pipes Though the weather hasn’t been as frightfully cold in California as in other areas of the country, there have still been a few cold snaps this winter, and frozen pipes have been a concern. Many water, irrigation and utility districts launched awareness efforts to warn and inform their residents about the danger of frozen pipes and how to prevent them. Nevada Irrigation District, Contra Costa Water District, East Bay Municipal Utility District and Pine Cove Water District are just some of the agencies who used their websites

California Special District – Jan-Feb 2014

to instruct homeowners on how to insulate and wrap their exposed pipes. Frozen pipes can be extremely costly to homeowners and each agency has taken steps beyond their regular service to make sure their residents don’t have to face that problem.

“Are You Okay?” Humboldt Bay Fire District works in partnership with the Humboldt Senior Resource Center on a program called “Are You Okay?” The program is a way of checking in on seniors living in the area and ensuring they haven’t fallen, become incapacitated or need assistance in any way. Seniors pay a one-time fee of $12 to sign up and, once registered, receive an automated call every Monday through Friday at a predetermined time. Upon receiving the call, participants hear a voice asking them to press a number on their phone. By pressing that number, the senior has indicated everything is okay and they do not require assistance. If no response is received, the automated system will call twice more before an alert is issued. In the case of no response after the three calls, a volunteer calls in person to determine if there was any kind of

error. If there is still no response, the volunteer calls that person’s emergency contacts. In the event the emergency contact cannot explain the lack of response or is unable to check on the senior themselves, emergency personnel with the fire district is notified and dispatched to the home. In addition to the automated calls, under the program seniors receive a key box to mount outside their home. The box must contain a key to their home and may only be opened by an access code held in the program’s computer system. This helps personnel enter the home without forced entry. Through this automated service, senior residents and their loved ones can be assured that someone will be available to check in and/or provide assistance should the need ever arise.

[Community Connections]

Social media: Avoid the risks, enjoy the benefits Don’t be left behind. Be where your public is.

By Martin Rauch, Rauch Communication Consultants, Inc. and Viveca Hess, HessConnect


A good place to start with a discussion of social media is that somewhere around 60 percent of all adults in our country use at least one social media network. The biggest and most popular by far is Facebook, but Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and others are all heavily used. Since a majority of your public is there, you should be there too. Let’s look at some of the benefits and risks of using social media.

Social Media Enhances Your Traditional Outreach. Every public agency outreach program should follow a plan and include a variety of media. Frequent and well-orchestrated communication via several different media such as the press, newsletters and presentations are key to achieving your outreach goals. Cost Effective. You will get the best return on effort if your social media is built into your overall outreach plan and supported by traditional media. It is also important to have capable, motivated people responsible for it and that there is ongoing oversight. Increase Your Audience and Integrate Existing Audiences. Social media is especially beneficial at creating conversations that provide an emotional connection: photos, brief stories, examples, quotes, videos and more. This lends interest to traditional media which is often more heavily word-based, longer and only one-way.

Rauch Communication Consultants is a full service public outreach and strategic planning firm that collaborates on social media campaigns with Viveca Hess of San Diego-based HessConnect, which specializes in social media services for highly regulated companies such as law firms and public agencies.


It Improves Customers’ Access to You. Good social media implementation will bring you closer to your customers, helping you to build trust through convenient social media forums. Communicate Efficiently in Emergencies. In an emergency, social media is likely to be the first place reporters and your public look. Studies show that journalists spend more than four hours a day on social media; about half of journalists post content to social media daily.


A Pew Research Ce that two-thirds of a in the U.S. are now form of soc

SHARE YOUR COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS Is your district interacting with the community in a new and original way? California Special District wants to know about it! Contact Nicole Dunn at or (877) 924-2732.

AVOIDING THE RISKS Caution: Develop and Enforce Social Media Policies. -Many staff and directors utilize social media in their personal lives. Social media for public agencies is different, mostly because of legal issues. Start by exploring what other agencies are doing about policies, get legal advice, and ensure policies are publicized on your site. Some typical areas covered by social media policies include: Public record or not? Check with your attorney as to whether your social media fits into Public Records Act requirements or not and how it does or does not. Let the public know that their comments may become a public record.


enter survey reports all public agencies w using at least one cial media.

Policies for governing board members. Because many governing board members use social media in their personal lives, policies should include making clear the divide between personal and public use of social media, such as: not engaging in discussions with fellow decision-makers about your agency’s subject matter, and remembering restrictions on using public resources for political purposes. Avoid crossing open meeting laws, common law bias and campaign prohibitions. Personal Activities. AB1234 provides guidelines on the use of public resources for personal purposes. Remind employees of decorum—that their private actions may reflect on the agency. Also recognize your employees’ First Amendment rights. Make sure your agency has clear policies around social media use by staff. Don’t be afraid of negative comments. The whole point of social media is to open a venue for dialogue. As a result, social media will generate many positive comments, but also inappropriate, negative, profane, and off-topic posts. All posts are an opportunity for your agency to listen and offer a timely, thoughtful, response for all participants to see. Clarify misinformation in even, accurate tones and allow your readers to judge any negative comments for what they are. Your openness will earn you trust among many. The public expects an open dialogue and censoring or removing content may not be legal. Make sure you have well thought out policies and training so you know how and when to post, respond and remove. Removal of content. Identify the types of content that are not acceptable. For example: election campaign material, discriminatory comments, and profanity. Explain under what circumstances content will be removed, how removed information is recorded, and make sure staff is trained and understands.

California Special District – Jan-Feb 2014

GETTING STARTED Every public agency should at least be starting to get engaged in social media. If you haven’t, Facebook is the most popular and a good place to start. Get an account and begin: check out other local government sites for ideas, gain skills and learn over time. Social media is here and it is growing fast. The benefits will accrue to those in the game. The greatest risks lie in wait for those not participating. Tips to help you get started effectively: • Begin with a well thought out social media plan: such as topics, messages, and timelines. • Use privacy settings that allow your public to access information without having to become a fan or friend. • Develop clear and detailed policies. • Post regularly, say three times each week, and make it interesting and engaging. • Name who will be responsible for posting and responding. • Use social media to drive people to your website and other media for more substantial information, and so it is available to those without social media access. • Utilize attractive design with your agency’s branding: color, fonts, logo, etc. Facebook Help Pages. For more detailed instructions, go to www. then select “Build Your Facebook Page”. Download the Facebook Government Guide. Scan the QR code below or go to Facebook-Pages-Guide-Government


With more than 350 laws and regulations that set the minimum standard for ethical conduct of public officials and high-ranking public employees in California, training is essential to gain a thorough understanding of the laws and what they require. California’s ethics laws guide state and local officials as well as public agencies in providing good, honest governmental services to their communities. However, the laws are complex and ever-changing. In the past year, for example, five separate bills were adopted to amend the Political Reform Act, one of several major ethics laws in the state. Moreover, the requirements are not always as crystal clear as one might hope. Although training regarding ethics laws is mandatory, convincing officials, staff and constituents that it is worth the time and cost can be a challenge. However, public officials who violate ethics rules can face substantial financial penalties – even if the violations were unintentional – and jail time in some circumstances. A good training program not only teaches public officials and employees how to avoid violating the law, but also helps them better meet their ethical obligation to conduct public business in the best interest of the public. In October 2005, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law AB 1234, which imposes ethics training, compensation and reimbursement requirements on officials of cities, counties and special districts. Under the law, “local agency officials” are defined as: (i) members of the legislative body or other elected officials who receive any type of compensation, salary or stipend; or (ii) any employee designated to take ethics courses by the legislative body. Generally, AB 1234 requires local agency officials to receive no less than two hours of training in general ethics principles and laws every two years, and to receive their first training course within the first year of office.


While the laws are expansive, the requirements can be summarized in four core ethical principles: 1. Public office cannot be used for personal financial gain. 2. Holding public office does not entitle anyone to personal advantage or perks. 3. The public’s business must be conducted openly. 4. Fair processes and merit-based decision-making create an environment of good governance and service to the public. Although these principles may seem intuitive, the laws and regulations implementing them are, at times, anything but. Below are some of the complexities that may trip up officials and employees.

No financial gain One of the major ethics laws is California Government Code section 1090. This law states that members of the Legislature and state, county, district, judicial district, and city officers or employees “shall not be financially interested in any contract made by them in their official capacity, or by any body or board of which they are members.” While this may seem straightforward, Section 1090’s scope of what is prohibited is actually far-reaching. The financial gain may be indirect or unintended, yet under Section 1090, it may still be illegal. There are, however, many exceptions to the law, which are nuanced and predominantly fact-based. For example, business dealings that benefit one’s spouse are virtually always a violation while those of adult children and siblings are not – unless your children or siblings owe you money. Then it may be a violation. The regulations affecting gifts are another area where the rules are complex and frequently changing. Understanding what constitutes a gift and applying a value to it, as well as tracking and reporting gifts, can be mind-boggling. Many officials are surprised at what constitutes a gift under the ethics rules. A good training program should include a comprehensive discussion of the gift rules, as well as practical tips to help public officials and employees understand how to comply with the requirements.

Have you taken your required ethics compliance training yet? CSDA offers two webinars throughout the year to fulfill the requirement: March 5, 2014 and November 13, 2014. Or order your ethics DVD kit by visiting the CSDA Bookstore at! No perks

No closed doors

Historically, the need for ethics laws resulted from special treatment given to public figures, as well as the public perception that public officials receive special treatment. Although the majority of public officials are honest, some use their office to collect perks. Even honest public officials can be targeted by those who prey upon the system to get what they want. Ethics violations can – and very often do – happen even when a public official has every intention of acting in the best interest of the public. A good understanding of the rules is critical to avoiding the all-too-real risk of unintentional violations.

The Brown Act and the Public Records Act, among other laws, govern the public’s constitutional right to access. Email and other forms of electronic communications have made this area even more important and confusing. Considerable time should be spent discussing the various aspects and nuances of the public’s right to know.

No advantages Another core ethical principal is that the public’s business is to be conducted by fair processes and with merit-based decision-making. For example, competitive bidding and purchasing procedures should be applied fairly to all potential bidders and vendors. However, oftentimes unknowingly, public officials and employees provide advantages to some parties over others – especially if private-sector policies and procedures are applied in the public sector. The rules of public business are simply different.

Our professional excellence and deep roots in California’s communities enable us to consistently achieve exceptional results for our clients.

If you ever find yourself not knowing which way to proceed when a situation arises, the best option is always to consult with legal counsel. Ethics rules are not black and white – there are a lot of gray areas – and the gray areas are most likely to get the honest public official into trouble. A good ethics training will help you learn when it’s time to seek expert advice. Brooke Miller is a partner at Best Best & Krieger LLP in the law firm’s San Diego office, where she is a member of the Public Policy and Ethics Compliance team as well as the Municipal Law and Special Districts practice groups. She currently serves as assistant city attorney for the City of Santee and as general counsel to the Ramona Municipal Water District. She can be reached at

Serving Local Governments Effective Public Outreach and Practical Strategic Planning

CONTACT US! Phone: 408-374-0977 Email: Web: 800.464.3559

California Special District – Jan-Feb 2014

Big enough to have the needed expertise. Small enough to focus on your needs.

2014 scholarship funds available for special districts 2014 Dr. James Kohnen Scholarship: Provides scholarships for registration fees for all four modules of the Special District Leadership Academy or the Special District Leadership Academy Conference and is open to elected/appointed special district board members from districts with budgets of less than $5 million, who have not previously completed the Special District Leadership Academy.


their November 2013 meeting, the Special District Leadership Foundation (SDLF) Board of Directors approved $18,000 in scholarship funds for special district elected/appointed officials and staff for 2014. The three funds have rolling application deadlines of the 15th of each month. Applications are available online at 2014 Education Allowance Fund: Provides scholarships to individuals in special districts with annual operating budgets of under $5 million. Education Allowance Funds can be used for the following qualifying CSDA events: • CSDA Board Secretary/Clerk Conference, February 27 - 28, 2014 • CSDA Annual Conference & Exhibitor Showcase, September 29 - October 2, 2014 • Special District Leadership Academy Conference • Special District Leadership Academy workshops • CSDA workshops and webinars.

CSDA Appointees

Stanley Caldwell, Mt. View Sanitary District Jo MacKenzie, Vista Irrigation District Sherry Sterrett, Pleasant Hill Recreation & Park District

SDRMA Appointees Special District Leadership Foundation 1112 I Street, Suite 200 Sacramento, CA 95814


2014 John Yeakley Special District Administrator Scholarship: Provides scholarships for registration fees for continuing education related to governance and operations for general managers and executive staff of districts with budgets of less than $5 million. Applicants must be currently pursuing their Special District Administrator (SDA) designation.

“SDLF awarded three educational scholarships over $1,400 - to the Aromas Water District in 2013. The qualification process was straightforward, timely, ongoing and easily accessible online. Both the general manager and a new board director benefited from this award with attendance to the General Manager Leadership Conference as well as the CSDA Annual Conference in Monterey. For a small district like ours, this professional development assistance is truly appreciated.” – VICKI MORRIS, GENERAL MANAGER AROMAS WATER DISTRICT

Neil McCormick, Administrator Megan Hemming, Program Manager Charlotte Lowe, Program Assistant Rick Wood, Finance Manager

David Aranda, SDA, North of the River Municipal Water District Sandy Raffelson, Herlong Public Utility District Jean Bracy, SDA, Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District

Public Member Appointees

Katie Kolitsos, Chief Consultant, Assembly Local Government Committee April Manatt, April Manatt Consulting Geoffrey Neill, California State Association of Counties


SPECIAL DISTRICT LEADERSHIP FOUNDATION Programs promoting good governance.


District Transparency Certificate of Excellence

The District Transparency Certificate of Excellence is a standalone program of SDLF and made available to districts that apply and meet certain requirements. It is also a required component of the District of Distinction Accreditation. This program was created in an effort to promote transparency in the operations and governance of specials districts to the public and to provide special districts with an opportunity to showcase their efforts in transparency.

For more information and an application, visit or call 916.231.2939.

Get your district certificate today!

Are you up for the Challenge? Prove your commitment to transparency

SDLF is supported by

The Special District Leadership Foundation (SDLF) is a an independent, non-profit organization formed to promote good governance and best practices among California’s special districts through certification, accreditation and other recognition programs.The SDLF and its activities are supported through the California Special Districts Association and Special District Risk Management Authority.

District Snapshots Mesa Water District

PHOTOS: Mesa Water District recently achieved an “Ocean Friendly Garden” distinction from the Surfrider Foundation for water-wise gardens at the District’s headquarters and at the Mesa Water Reliability Facility (MWRF). Mesa Water offers three water-wise gardens in its service area for public education and tours, including its California Friendly demonstration garden at the OC Fair.


California Special Districts Alliance Bringing the best in resources, products and services to all special districts.




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anaging Risk

Spring safety/claims education day and legal update issues, SDRMA will be offering a new General Safety Specialist Certificate Program. The Certificate Program is an all-day specialized training programing being presented by Bob Lapidus, CSP and Mary Beth O’Connell, CSP of Lapidus Safety Consulting. Participants will receive a Safety Certificate for their respective agency and will also receive Credit Incentive Points.

SDRMA will be holding our annual Membership meeting and Spring Safety/Claims Education Day in Sacramento on Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Following the Membership meeting, we will be conducting several workshop sessions throughout the remainder of the day. This year we will also have a special keynote speaker, Michael Bazzell, who is currently assigned to the FBI’s Cyber Crimes Task Force. He has been involved in numerous high-tech criminal investigations including online child solicitation, child abduction, kidnapping, cold-case homicide, terrorist threats, and high level computer intrusions. His previous books, “Open Source Intelligence Techniques” and “Hiding from the Internet”, have been top sellers in both the United States and Europe. They are used by several government agencies as training manuals for intelligence gathering and securing personal information. See a full interview with Bazzell on page 12. In addition to six individual training sessions on liability, workers’ compensation and risk management

A proud California Special Districts Alliance partner.


There is no cost to attend and a full breakfast and lunch will be provided. Additional information on how to register for the Safety/Claims Education Day has been mailed out to all SDRMA and CSDA members and interested attendees can check the SDRMA website (www.sdrma. org) for further information and to register. Legal Update Torts – Public Entities – Immunity for Natural Meddock v. County of Yolo

California Third District Court of Appeal (October 4, 2013) There are certain sections of the Government Code that provide immunities to public entities as a matter of public policy. This case considered the extent of immunity for natural conditions under Government Code § 831.2. On March 21, 2009, plaintiff Dwight Meddock was on a paved parking lot in a park along the Sacramento River. He was there to go boating. Trees lined the river. Many of those trees leaned away from the river and over the parking lot, and some of the trees were diseased. While in the parking lot, one of the diseased trees fell on him. Meddock sued the County of Yolo for personal injuries. In its Answer to the Complaint, the County pled Section 831.2 as an affirmative defense. The provision states, in full: “[n]either a public entity nor a


David Aranda, President, North of the River Municipal Water District Muril Clift, Vice President, Cambria Community Services District Jean Bracy, Secretary, Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District Special District Risk Management Authority 1112 I Street, Suite 300 Sacramento, CA 95814 tel: 800.537.7790

Members of the Board

Terry Burkhart, Bighorn-Desert View Water Agency Ed Gray, Chino Valley Independent Fire District Sandy Raffleson, Herlong Public Utility District Michael Scheafer, Costa Mesa Sanitary District

public employee is liable for an injury caused by a natural condition of any unimproved public property, including but not limited to any natural condition of any lake, stream, bay river or beach.” The County moved for summary judgment based on Section 831.2, and the trial court granted it. Meddock appealed. The Court’s ruling turned upon the meaning of Section 831.2. Meddock argued that for the immunity to apply, the injury must also occur on unimproved property. Because his injury occurred on improved property (the paved parking lot) Meddock argued that Section 831.2 was inapplicable. The Third District Court of Appeal firmly rejected this argument. “Because Meddock’s injuries were caused by decaying trees located on unimproved property, the County is immune from liability.” In reaching this conclusion, the appellate court meticulously reviewed (1) the rules for statutory construction; (2) the history of Section 831.2 immunity; (3) appellate and Supreme Court precedent; and (4) the public policy for public land-related immunities. All supported the Court’s ruling. Comment When a provision contains straightforward language -- such as “an injury caused by a natural condition” -- a party cannot read his/her own meaning into it. The opinion also affirms the scope of Section 831.2 immunity. As long as the injury is caused by a natural condition of unimproved property, regardless of where the injury occurs, immunit will apply.

California Special District – Jan-Feb 2014


Lauren Brant, Public Financial Management Ann Siprelle, Best Best & Krieger, LLP David McMurchie, McMurchie Law John Alltop, Bickmore Risk Services & Consulting Charice Huntley, River City Bank James Marta, CPA, Auditor Karl Snearer, Apex Insurance Agency Doug Wozniak, Alliant Insurance Services, Inc.

Aaron MacDonald v. State of California, et al. Court of Appeal, Third District August 27, 2013) In this case, the Third District of the Court of Appeal acknowledged and clarified the question that troubled many employers until now. Namely, an employee must exhaust the administrative process created by Labor Code § 98.7 before filing a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit brought under Labor Code §1102.5.

Plaintiff Aaron MacDonald (“MacDonald”) was hired by the State of California (“State”) to work for the California State Assembly (“Assembly”) at an office in San Joaquin County. A few months after starting his new job, MacDonald complained to several of his supervisors that one of them was illegally smoking in the office, violating two state laws. One of the supervisors assured MacDonald that the problem was serious and would be dealt with, but two weeks later, MacDonald was fired. MacDonald filed suit against the Assembly and the State for retaliation, discrimination and wrongful termination. MacDonald claimed: (1) retaliatory discharge in violation of Labor Code § 1102.5; and (2) retaliatory and discriminatory discharge in violation of Labor Code § 6310. The defendants demurred, arguing that MacDonald was required to exhaust his administrative remedy with the Labor Commissioner under Labor Code § 98.7 before he could sue. The trial court agreed and sustained the demurrer, dismissing the case with prejudice. MacDonald appealed. The Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision, stating that MacDonald was required to exhaust administrative remedies by taking his complaint to the Labor Commissioner before suing in court. Specifically, Labor


Gregory S. Hall, ARM, Chief Executive Officer C. Paul Frydendal, CPA, Chief Financial Officer Dennis Timoney, ARM, Chief Risk Officer Barbara Tyler, CCLA, FCLA, Claims/Loss Prevention Manager Nicole Rushing, Finance Manager Ellen Doughty, Manager of Member Services Karen Lafferty, AIC, Senior Claims Examiner Shawn Vang, Accounting Technician Wendy Tucker, Member Services Specialist II Alana Batzianis, Health Benefits Specialist II Rachel Saldana, Administrative Assistant

Code § 1102.5 provides employees with protection from retaliation for “disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency, where the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation or noncompliance with a state or federal rule or regulation. Government Code § 7597 provides public employees with similar protection. In 2003, § 1102.5 was amended to provide protection for employees who refuse to participate in illegal activities. Labor Code § 1102.5 (c) bars retaliation “for refusing to participate in an activity that would result in a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation or noncompliance with a state or federal rule of regulation.” Labor Code § 98.7 provides an administrative remedy for employees seeking protection of Labor Code § 1102.5 and Government Code § 7597. It states that an employee “ . . . may file a complaint with the division within six months after the occurrence of the violation..” If the Labor Commissioner finds that a violation has occurred, it shall order appropriate remedies. The same remedies are available in a lawsuit. If the employer fails to comply within ten days, the Labor Commissioner may file an action in court, or if the commissioner declines to act, the employee may bring action in court. MacDonald argued that the language of Labor Code § 98.7 is permissive, and not restrictive. MacDonald relied on the court of appeal case Lloyd v. County of Los Angeles (2009) 172 Cal.App.4th 320, which held that the Labor Code did not continued on page 40

Money Matters Dollars and sense: Financial best practices for special districts By David Becker, CPA, Partner, James Marta & Company LLP

We all want what’s best for our district, but sometimes it’s easier to continue to do things the way we’ve always done them because it seems to work. If you really want what’s best, then you need to look closer at how you manage your finances. Here is a look at how special districts can develop best practices as it relates to your financial statements. Policies and Procedures: The foundation for all good financial practices lies in the environment and culture created by the board and management. This starts with sound fiscal policies and procedures in key financial areas, especially when it comes to internal controls. Formal documentation and communication are critical. If you don’t have a financial policies and procedures manual, you need to adopt one. This manual is the cornerstone of all your financial processes and discussions. It should be evaluated and updated annually. So what polices are the most critical? While every organization might vary a little on the most critical areas, these are some that we have identified for most special districts: cash controls, budgeting, purchasing, accounts receivable, credit cards, payroll and personnel, travel and reimbursements, inventory, investments, conflict of interest, security and financial reporting. The list could go on, but I think you can see how important these policies can be. When it comes to any and all of these policies and procedures, information and training are essential for proper implementation and understanding.

Just the definition of a balanced budget is hard to get consensus on at times. As an accountant, my definition is simple: budgeted revenues are greater than or equal to expenditures. Some districts like to throw in beginning fund balance as a component of a balanced budget, while others include a contingency reserve. In my mind, neither of these are a revenue or expense item and therefore not part of the budget. The important thing is to ensure that your policies clearly define a balanced budget for your organization. Long-range planning is an often overlooked component of the budget. Many special districts have a significant amount of infrastructure and capital assets that will need repair and replacement. The time to plan is now for those future expenditures. Another area with different views on budgeting is whether a budget should be modified throughout the year for changes in projections. Remember that your budget is a guide for the year. Whether you are above or below budget, it is essential that everyone understand why these variations are occurring and determine if what you are doing and how you do it need to change as well.

Budgeting: Budgeting is another essential area for special districts and is another foundational item to ensure success. While the views on budgeting are essentially the same for most special districts, the priorities and how to achieve them are vastly different.

Financial Reporting: Internal financial reporting traditionally means compiling and distributing generic reports that show a district’s past, short-term financial performance. And the information leaves management without insight, unable to link what happened yesterday with how the district will meets its financial targets of tomorrow.


A proud California Special Districts Alliance partner.



James Acosta, President, Saticoy Sanitary District Jo MacKenzie, Vice President, Vista Irrigation District Scott Dowell, Secretary, Chico Area Recreation and Park District Paul Hughes, Treasurer, South Tahoe Public Utilities District


CSDA Finance Corporation 1112 I Street, Suite 200 Sacramento, CA 95814 tel: 877.924.CSDA


David McMurchie, McMurchie Law Josephine Libunao, BNY Mellon Trust Co., NA William Morton, Municipal Finance Corporation Saul Rosenbaum, Prager & Co., LLC Jeff Stava, Nossaman, LLP


Neil McCormick, Administrator Cathrine Lemaire, Program Manager Charlotte Lowe, Executive Assistant Rick Wood, Finance Manager

Members of the Board

Leslie Keane, Orange County Cemetery District John Martin, Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District Steve Perez, Rosamond Community Services District

Internal financial reporting does not have to be that way. A special district can invent any format it likes; after all, internal reports are completely at the district’s discretion. The district may have a single page of key indicators of the health of the organization, juxtaposed to data on the same measures from the previous year or multiple or compared with defined benchmarks. A district may break down financial performance any way that makes sense for its business. The traditional profit-and-loss framework is not obligatory, unless it happens to work for your district. Best practices in the area of providing internal financial information can be quite technical and complex. For example, the best practices address the fundamental assumptions and structure of internal financial reporting, the selection of performance measures at the district, approaches to financial analysis, and choices in the financial information system. As daunting as these best practices may appear, districts should keep in mind that they have complete control and flexibility in the area of internal financial reporting. After all, it is internal reporting, so it is completely up to the district to decide what serves it best. Inasmuch as these best practices are intricate and complex, a district in the end should select the approaches and technologies that support its own decision-making process, which are in line with the district’s mission. More Financial Best Practices: There are many more areas of financial best practices and certainly the areas above can be expanded further. Among the additional considerations for special districts should be long-term planning, equity reserves, facilities planning and risk management. The key for most of these best practices is having demonstrated financial leadership that can identify a district’s needs, consider the district’s options and provide recommended solutions. And in case you are wondering, I did not forget about technology, which can take on a life of its own. Our office is completely paperless - and I mean completely - so I know the benefits of technology that make us all more efficient and effective. If you are wondering where to go from here, start by looking at what your district is doing right now. If some or all of these best practices are not in place, then start at the top and make sure you have adopted sound fiscal policies and procedures that include the key components of your district. Lay a solid foundation and build up from there.

California Special District – Jan-Feb 2014

CSDA Finance Corporation Reports More than $37MM in Closed Financings Last year the CSDA Finance Corporation reported facilitating more than $37 million in financing for equipment and vehicle purchases, land acquisitions, refunding of prior debt and counter party services. The Finance Corporation has built a reputation on competitive rates, responsive service and streamlined processes. To learn more about the financing programs available call 877.924.2732 or visit

RECENTLY CLOSED FINANCINGS Desert Recreation District Counterparty Services - $2,215,000 Fresno Westside Mosquito Abatement District Building Construction - $1,500,000 Pleasant Hill Recreation & Park District Furnishings & Fixtures - $300,000 Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District Counterparty Services - $29,610,000 Saratoga Fire Protection District Refinancing - $2,100,000 Twain Harte Community Services District Fire Truck - $363,732 Valley Center Cemetery District Land Improvements - $85,000 Yuima Municipal Water District Pump Station - $900,000

[What’s so special]

Returning to the Earth Davis Cemetery District

Recently, the Davis Cemetery District expanded the area it is able to serve. Its Local Agency Formation Commission did a five-year review of the district, and added a local community that had no cemetery district because of its high water table. Not only did the community in the new service area gain access to another option for a resting place, but it gained access to a rare benefit – one that is not performed by many other cemeteries, if any, in the state. Davis Cemetery District performs green burials for those who would like to return to the earth in an eco-friendly fashion. California Special District asked Davis Cemetery District to explain what green burials are and what else the district is doing to work in ways positive for the environment. What makes green burials different from typical burials? Green burials promote a rapid return to the earth, using no embalming fluids, biodegradable burial containers (such as wooden caskets, wicker baskets, or shroud wrapped bodies on wooden pallets), and no burial vaults. This was the historical burial practice before burial vaults became popular in the mid to late 1800’s, and the pendulum is swinging back again.

Do many cemeteries do this in California? Very few cemeteries in California do this, and to our knowledge we are the only public cemetery in California that currently does it. However, due to the growing popularity of the green burial, more cemeteries are becoming interested in the practice. Susan Finkleman Office Manager


Davis Cemetery District Established: 1922, first buriel 1855 Size: Tier 1 = 43.28 sq miles, Tier 2 = 197 sq. miles

*Tier 1 is the original district boundary, which supports the district through property taxes. Tier 2 is the recently expanded district area, which is not supported by property taxes but instead has a Tier 2 price surcharge.

Population: Budget: Location: Website:

Tier 1 = 73,930, Tier 2 = approx. 50,000 $469,125 Davis, CA

Why did David Cemetery District choose to start performing them? Davis is an innovative, environmentally friendly community. We have always had forward thinking individuals on our board of trustees, so in drawing up our Master Plan in 2005, green burials were incorporated. The board wisely anticipated that there would be a demand for them in our community, and indeed our first green burial took place in January of 2006.

Why would individuals want this service? There are a variety of reasons why green burials appeal to people. They are environmentally friendly, they are perceived as “simple” or “natural” which has an emotional appeal to some individuals, there are religious traditions, such as Muslim, Jewish, and Baha’i, which teach that these practices are desirable, and many people who work in agricultural or environmental sectors are drawn to them as being “close to the earth” or “part of the natural cycle.”

What are other “green” ways your district operates? We power the district with solar, we are converting more and more acreage each year to low water use plantings and drip irrigation, we compost all of our yard waste and recycle all bottles, cans, and glass. We have restored the natural swale on our property to all native grasses and sedges; almost all our rainwater runoff percolates through this swale to recharge the ground water. We practice integrated pest management. Our plantings are native or California adapted, carefully chosen to attract beneficial insects and birds as

well as providing habitat. We are a designated wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation and have achieved Arboretum Level II status from the Morton Register. According to ArbNet, website of the Morton Register of Arboreta: “An arboretum is a specialized type of botanical garden that focuses on trees and other woody plants. Arboreta collect, grow, and display trees, shrubs, and other plants for people to study and enjoy, and ideally are open to the public for education and inspiration. A principal goal of arboreta is to encourage and support the planting and conservation of trees for environmental improvement and enhanced quality of life.” You can find a full list of requirements for Level II certification on the website, but in brief, we have over 100 species of trees and woody bushes, all of which have been precisely mapped via GPS along with botanical identification, planting date, height and girth measurements. The species are labeled and available for viewing by the public throughout the grounds. We already had a strong commitment to diverse plantings and

environmental improvement, and we understood that this enhanced the healing aspect of our grounds, but the certification process took this awareness and commitment to a new level.

Prices offered for services at your district are, on average, lower than those of private cemeteries. Why is this? As a special district, we have the advantage of property tax revenue to supplement our burial revenue, whereas private cemeteries must generate all of their revenue directly from their price structure. This allows us to carry out our mission to provide respectful and affordable interment services that meet the cultural, economic, religious and social needs of our community. continued on page 41

California Special District – Jan-Feb 2014

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California Special District – Jan-Feb 2014

Managing risk [continued from page 33] require exhaustion of administrative remedies prior to suing in court. Lloyd’s ruling emphasized the language of the Labor Code provision, which states that a party “may file a complaint” with the Labor Commissioner, rather than using a restrictive words such as “must” or “shall.” The court of appeal criticized Lloyd, stating that the case incorrectly interpreted the law. The appellate court noted that the longstanding rule in California is that if an administrative remedy is provided in a statute, that remedy must be pursued before suing in court, even if the statute uses non-mandatory language such as the word “may.” After criticizing the reasoning in Lloyd, the appellate court held that another case, Campbell v. Regents of University of California (2005) 35 Cal.4th 311, more accurately interpreted the law regarding exhaustion of administrative remedies in the Labor Code. Campbell involved a lawsuit by an employee of the Regents of the University of California and stated that the employee was required to exhaust the university’s internal administrative remedies before suing in court.


The court of appeal rejected MacDonald’s contention that Campbell only applied to internal department administrative remedies, not remedies contained in the Labor Code. The Appellate Court emphasized that Campbell regarded the university’s internal rule as if it were a statute, and held that the Labor Code requires exhaustion of administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit. Comment With this split in authority, it is probable that the Supreme Court will address the issue of permissive or mandatory exhaustion of remedies. In the meantime, MacDonald is beneficial to employers in that the Labor Commissioners can resolve many claims speedily, without the involvement of the courts. This also translates into fewer costs for the employer. Unlike litigation, the administrative process can be completed in months rather than years, which is particularly important in matters where liability exists. © 2013 Low, Ball & Lync

What’s so special [continued from page 37]

What advice do you have for other cemetery districts interested in performing green burials? What should they know?

At this time, your district has about 20 acres of undeveloped land, for future use. How do you use that land currently?

Green burials involve more labor, so consider your pricing carefully. Our total price for a green burial is virtually the same as a liner burial, because the charges for the liner are transferred to higher opening/closing costs. We use iron shoring devices that are removed before the grave is closed; this adds to the safety and efficiency of the green burial process. We are happy to share specific techniques and tips for any cemetery considering this practice.

We have been landscaping it with several hundred new trees, woody bushes, and mounded perennial gardens, as well as over four miles of drip irrigation, and it has many species labeled with lovely arboretum signs. It is habitat for over 50 bird species, rabbits, squirrels, and other critters. We have gravel paths making it accessible to joggers, photographers, birders, and nature enthusiasts. It is also where our compost piles and brush piles are “worked,” which provides habitat for the many creatures who share our grounds. We have plans to create heart healthy paths through this area as well.

CSDA’s Business Affiliates CSDA gratefully relies on the generous support of all Business Affiliates

Gold level

CSDA Finance Corporation Meyers Nave Special District Risk Management Authority

Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP California CAD Solutions, Inc.


Diamond level

To learn more about becoming a CSDA Business Affiliate or participating at a higher level, contact our office at 877.924.2732.

California Special District – Jan-Feb 2014


CPS HR Consulting Hanson Bridgett LLP HdL Coren & Cone MCE Corporation PARS


California Special Districts Association Districts Stronger Together





Maximizing Protection. Minimizing Risk. As California’s trusted risk management advisor, SDRMA brings together a unique combination of world-class risk management consulting and technical experts that make our Member Programs superior to everything else on the market. Our goal is to serve as an extension of your staff so our service is seamless to you and your agency. Visit our website at or call us at 800.537.7790 for more information about our Workers’ Compensation, Property/Liability or Health Benefits Programs. We look forward to serving you!

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California Special District: Risk Management  

Volume 9, Issue 1, Jan - Feb 2014

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