Soaked: Ratepayers underwrite RWSA $5k gift to Rivanna Conservation Society

| June 28, 2010 | 6 Comments

Times must be flush at the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA).

At their June 22, 2010 board meeting, the embattled authority (infamously known for raising water and sewer rates to compensate for conservation–related revenue shortfalls) quietly pumped $5,000 of ratepayer money into the caissons of a political ally—the Rivanna Conservation Society (RCS).

RCS, a private, left-leaning advocacy group, requested the funding in a May 25 cover letter to RWSA, entitled: Project Proposal Scenic River 40th Anniversary Celebration

Albemarle County and Charlottesville City ratepayers, already inundated from ballooning water and sewer rates, now will be forced to subsidize RCS and their “partners’” frivolous celebration, termed by the society as a “comprehensive patchwork of activities and events….”

In a June 22 memorandum to RWSA’s board, (reviewed by Executive Director, Tom Frederick) RWSA Water Resources Manager, Tamara Ambler, seeks support for the splashy request:

Board Action Requested:

The provision of financial support for activities associated with the “Year of the Rivanna: The Commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of Virginia’s Scenic Rivers Program” is at the Board’s discretion.

Adding insult to ratepayer financial injury, the memo specifies proposed uses of the requested gift:

  • Brochure printing
  • Underwriting costs of a “media campaign”
  • Event development

So, why would a financially strapped, purportedly non-partisan quasi-governmental “authority” float $5,000 in hard-earned ratepayer resources to a local liberal activist association?

Would it be, perhaps, quid pro quo for RCS’ support of the controversial Community Water Supply Plan in 2005?

While the first may be easy to answer, additional questions remain:

  • What other advocacy groups now will be granted gifts of ratepayer monies?
  • Has precedent been established by the RWSA board’s reckless abandon in support of a “friendly” organization?

Ultimately, RWSA’s financial floodgates must be closed; and the RWSA board must curtail its craving to imbibe the headiness of publicly endowed philanthropy. While $5,000 may seem like a “drop in the bucket” to Director Frederick and his altruistic board, ratepayers certainly must feel “hosed.”

About the Author:

Rob Schilling is founder of The Schilling Show Blog and News; host of WINA's The Schilling Show, heard weekdays from noon to 2 PM; husband; father; and community watchdog.
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6 Comments on "Soaked: Ratepayers underwrite RWSA $5k gift to Rivanna Conservation Society"

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  1. Richard Lloyd says:

    Does the Rivanna Conservation Society (RCS) receive enough donation money from the public to support the $62,000 + employment expense of the Executive Director, Robbie Savage????

    How much of this potentially illegal transfer of rate payer’s money is going to celebrate the “Year of the Rivanna” and how much is going to the supplicant?

    If the public is not contributing enough then how ethical is it that the money is collected as rates and then passed to the RCS?

    There is a lot more to this Rob!!!!

  2. keith says:

    At least RWSA is consistent. They know what The Nature Conservancy (TNC) wants …. and they do it!

    Clearly, it is time to take back our water system and flush the RWSA into Moore’s Creek. Now, Charlottesville City Council is our only hope to inject financial, scientific, and business integrity into this project/process.

    In 2012 the 4-party agreement which cedes control over Charlottesville’s reservoirs expires soon. The City should not renew that agreement.

    Instead – if RWSA does not perform a statistically valid demand forecast and create a true project plan with factual engineering plans & costs (including a route, design, and costs of the fabled ‘conceptual’ pipeline required to fill Ragged Mountain) — Charlottesville should plan to take back its reservoirs and begin to repair the results of 40 years of RWSA mismanagement, which is typified by the clear neglect of the Rivanna Reservoir. Even after performing ancillary water/sewer updates, Charlottesville could save $100+ million of unnecessary spending to subsidize TNC’s lab fees and local developers’ dreams.

    (As background, a local resident is the lead hydrologist for TNC. He wrote a book proclaiming the advantages of ‘off-line’ reservoirs that don’t take water from in-stream flows. His belief is that extra water during storms should be pumped to storage and used the rest of the year. Also, note that this hydrologist has publicly declared his goal of enhancing the Moormans River in the county at the expense of damaging the Rivanna River, which flows through the City and into Glenmore. This TNC theory is a nice idea but, in our case, is ungodly expensive and damaging to the Rivanna River and Reservoir. No elected person in the US has been willing to test TNC’s idea, but they found allies in the unelected RWSA and Albemarle development community. But, it’s mostly Charlottesville City ratepayers who will fund the experiment.)

    ****************************

    Still not convinced about how environmental non-profits conspire to usurp governmental authority and money?

    Take a look at this U.S. Inspector General’s report – http://www.epa.gov/oig/reports/2007/20070220-2007-4-00045.pdf .

    The subject of this report was fraudulent/unallowable conveyance of federal funds to related and unrelated private entities, all engineered by the person who just received the $5,000 ‘donation’ from RWSA. (The total amount of this one was $25 MILLION, so RWSA got off cheap.)

    Here are just a few quotes from that Inspector General’s report:

    “During the year, the Foundation advanced $100,000 in Federal funds to another not-for-profit organization.”

    “Several Federal Cash Transactions Reports were not properly supported. There were discrepancies between cumulative grant expenditures and amounts in the general ledger. Adjustments to the grants were made after the reports were submitted. However, the Foundation did not retain support for amounts reported in the Federal Cash Transaction Reports or the adjustments to the general ledger.”

    “The Foundation received cash advances in excess of its current cash needs.”

    “Our review disclosed that the Foundation:
    1) Did not provide support for any of its general journal entries.
    2) Included duplicate transactions in its accounting system.
    3) Recorded labor charged to the EPA grants incorrectly.
    4) Could not support the recorded indirect costs.
    5) Claimed unallowable preaward costs.
    6) Recorded EPA cash draws inaccurately.
    7) Did not submit required indirect cost rate proposals to EPA.
    8) Did not complete the required single audits for the fiscal years ended June 30, 2003, June 30, 2004, and June 30, 2005.
    9) Did not submit a Federal Cash Transactions Report when required.”

    “We reviewed transactions in both databases for the overlapping period and noted duplicated amounts of at least $48,008 in salaries and $15,380 in associated fringe benefits.”

    “We found differences between labor hours reported on employee timesheets and labor hours recorded in the Foundation’s accounting system. Foundation’s Response: The Foundation did not address this finding.”

    “The Foundation did not comply with EPA regulations when procuring contracts and obtaining prior approval for contract costs. The Foundation claimed outlays of $21,107,498 ($12,308,145 under grant X82835301 and $8,799,353 under grant X783142301) for contracts awarded to conduct on-farm assessments. The first contract was originally awarded in fiscal year 1999 to the National Pork Producer’s Council (Council). Subsequent contracts were awarded to Environmental Management Solutions, LLC, a 100 percent owned subsidiary of the Council. Environmental Management Solutions, LLC later changed its name to Validus Services, LLC (collectively referred to as Validus). The contract was extended several times through fiscal year 2005.”
    ***********************

    I didn’t make up the use of the term “pork” in this Inspector General’s report. This EPA-reimbursed fraud was to take $25 million to investigate sewage lagoons in the pork industry. This group merely handed over US Government money to the National Pork Producer’s Council’s front company, Validus Services LLC, to investigate its owners. How appropriate … and foretelling.

    But, there is more. Click the link and read the report to understand how the $5,000 RWSA “donation” is just another ‘business-as-usual’ backroom deal to transfer public money to private interests. It’s the same people and the same deal.
    ***************************************

    CHARLOTTESVILLE – you can’t just sit back and complain about pork in Washington, DC and accept the same here at home.

    This $5,000 “donation” is just one more link in a chain of grabbing public money to advance private interests, pay substantial salaries, and transfer public money to private interests.

  3. Richard Lloyd says:

    Virginia Law

    Ҥ 58.1-3141. Treasurer or other person shall not use public money except as provided by law.

    No treasurer or any other person handling public money shall knowingly apply, disburse or use any part of the public money held by him in any manner or for any purpose other than the manner and purposes provided by law. Any violation of this section, when amount so applied, disbursed or used exceeds fifty dollars, shall constitute embezzlement.

    (Code 1950, § 58-929; 1984, c. 675.) ”

    I am not a lawyer but it appears to apply.

  4. Cville Eye says:

    It is time for the city to start extricating itself from RWSA and RSWA. Both entities have more than proven themselves to be unable to carry out the charges given to them by the public. No one, no one can attest to their competence.

  5. Cville Eye says:

    “The celebratory materials, including posters, brochures, calendars, and press releases, will be available on the soon to be created website, blog and Face Book page, each specially designed for total availability to all community partners.” If the State believes this celbration is so important to our civic health, why isn’t it paying for it. Oh, it’s cutting its expenditures. Yep, buying support for the beleagured authorities. Nobody is interested in this celebration except for those that are on salary. RCS has been trying to get itself on the public dole ever since it was formed.

  6. Cville Eye says:

    Well, what do you know. They already have a website: http://www.yearoftherivanna.org/

    Check out the list of “partners.” Friends feeding friends. So many of the people behind those organizations have been dipping into the public trough for years.

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