Imperial Irrigation District Division 3 Director Jim Hanks will lead the district’s board next year as president, followed by newly elected Division 2 Director JB Hamby as vice president after action was taken on Tuesday, Dec. 15, to change the governance policy.
But that decision to change the policy was not without its detractors, including outgoing board President Norma Sierra Galindo and outgoing Vice President Alex Cardenas, who before Tuesday’s turn of events was due to take the presidency of the board on a ceremonial rotational basis.
Discussion on the policy change and the ensuring board reorganization became heated, acrimonious, and was yet another indicator of what the future might hold for board relations, as this was the first full meeting with two new directors.
“It disheartens me for you to bring this up, Director Hanks, on a completely independent effort,” Cardenas said during the meeting. “You talk about equity and you talk about having conversations and transparency, yet you go off on your own and you bring this back. Staff did not participate in this well-written policy. It’s very polished. However, the content is very discriminatory, and it totally disenfranchises Division 1.
“Division 1 (which Cardenas represents) has not had a chairman or a president in six years, sir. Six years,” he continued. “This policy that you authored 13 years ago was spot on. It brings equity to the divisions.”
“I listen to you talk all the time,” Hanks countered, before being interrupted.
“Director Hanks, Director Cardenas has the floor,” Galindo said.
It’s became difficult to hear what Hanks said after that, but Cardenas replied, “You can see the discriminatory …,” followed by the banging of the gavel as Galindo says, “Director Hanks, Director Cardenas has the floor.”
“All I’m asking is for some courtesy, sir,” Cardenas said.
Hamby soon jumped in on the heated exchange.
“I take offense at your comment about discriminatory strategy. That is a direct statement challenging Director Hanks’ character,” he said to Cardenas, which was quickly followed by more gavel banging from Galindo.
Hanks then got the chance to defend his proposal to allow any of the board members to serve as officers without a waiting period and without a rotation of officer positions. The standing governance policy held that no director could serve as a president or vice president until they had been on the board for two years.
“First of all, you still have a chance of being president,” Hanks said to Cardenas. “Director Galindo has a chance to be president for a second term.”
Cardenas continued that it is a discriminatory policy, to which Hanks replied, “I’m glad to see Director Cardenas finally take a stand on something.”
To say changing the board policy was contentious is an understatement, but what followed, appointing a new president and vice president, took multiple motions and at the end of the day, more than half of the board had been nominated for the position of president.
“We need a president and vice president that will do the following: develop a work plan with the full board’s participation, conduct meetings with decorum, behave consistently with our board policy, focus discussions on the public’s business, not delivering personal attacks to members of the board and public,” Hamby said. “We need officers that will conduct themselves professionally and stick to board policy in service of the public.
“I’ve been taught that you cannot improve what you tolerate, and the people of Imperial Valley stated in this election that they did not tolerate what was going on at the IID board,” he added. “It is time that we deliver the improvement that they demanded. At this time, I would like to extend the offer to nominate Director Hanks to the office of his choosing, if he’s willing to accept my nomination.”
Hanks replied, “I will say this much. I will not serve as president. I have served multiple times. I’m not interested in serving as the president.”
So how did Hanks, who said clearly multiple times that he did not want to be president of the board, end up in that position?
A lot of arm-twisting and motions for other members to be president, that’s how.
The decision came down to newly elected Division 4 Director Javier Gonzalez.
Gonzalez said earlier in the meeting that he supported changing the governance policy, but not to get ahead himself.
“I support the proclamation. That doesn’t mean I’m going to be supportive of a rookie,” he said. “It should be at the discretion of the board.”
“I’ll be honest, I’m in the middle,” he said after voting against having Hamby as president. “I was hoping Mr. Hanks could be president.”
Galindo then asked if Gonzalez wanted to be president, to which he responded swiftly, “no.”
After more discussion and another failed vote, Hanks said he would accept the nomination for the position. A motion to make Hanks president at the beginning of 2021 passed 3-2, with Hanks, Hamby, and Gonzalez voting in the affirmative.
Gonzalez did attempt to bridge what appears an obvious chasm that has formed between Hanks, Hamby, and himself, and Cardenas and Galindo by nominating Cardenas for the vice presidency.
“I respectfully decline. I am not available to serve as vice president,” Cardenas said.
He added that he removed himself because he was not in support of the first motion to change the governance policy.
The next motion came from Hanks, who nominated Hamby for the position of vice president. That motion passed with a 3-2 vote, Cardenas and Galindo opposing it.