Cambrian: Opinion

Cambria CSD shouldn’t panic at prospect of losing Jerry Gruber’s services

Jerry Gruber, left, general manager of the Cambria Community Services District, signs loan papers in August 2014 at the Veterans Memorial Building with Charles Adams, the district’s bond counsel from the Jones Hall legal firm in San Francisco.
Jerry Gruber, left, general manager of the Cambria Community Services District, signs loan papers in August 2014 at the Veterans Memorial Building with Charles Adams, the district’s bond counsel from the Jones Hall legal firm in San Francisco. Cambrian file photo

In reference to Cambria Community Services District Director Jim Bahringer’s “not tone deaf CCSD” Viewpoint (The Cambrian, May 12), I would like to respond. Mr. Bahringer agrees with the people of Cambria that public sector pay has gotten out of hand, while unconvincingly arguing that General Manager Jerry Gruber’s new contract is cheaper than the cost to replace him. Mr. Bahringer informs us that in order to retain our “high-quality personnel” and to be competitive, we must raise Mr. Gruber’s salary and benefit package to the stratosphere, retroactively, no less, to “keep him in Cambria.”

Before we panic at the prospect of losing Mr. Gruber to greener pastures, let us consider the outrageous salary the new contract proposes, which includes a nine-month severance package (which would also result in a lifetime pension based upon the new salary). Approximately 50 individuals recently applied for each of two city managers positions within our county. This suggests there are many professionals eager to serve in a management position on the Central Coast.

If Mr. Gruber is unwilling to remain under the terms of his current contract (which, coincidentally, has no expiration date), he is free to accept one of the offers that Director Greg Sanders confirmed has been extended to him (The Cambrian, April 28). We can then begin a search for Mr. Gruber’s replacement and pressure the board to practice fiscal responsibility by reducing the salary, benefit package and over-the-top $600-per-month vehicle allowance.

At the last CCSD board meeting, Mr. Gruber lamented the increasing cost of the Landwatch/Stanford Law Clinic lawsuit, which Mr. Sanders referred to as “specious.”

Would we be faced with this lawsuit had proper procedures been followed? Just a few infrastructure projects coming down the pike: replacing and maintaining our aging wastewater treatment plant, new water tanks, a new fire truck and the rodeo grounds pump station.

Also, we have no idea of the ultimate cost to complete the water facility or whether we will get approval for its operation from the Coastal Commission, because Cambrians have been misled by the CCSD from the get-go regarding what was originally known as the “Emergency Water Supply” project. We were told it would cost approximately $3 million to ensure we would have water for current residents in times of severe drought. We took the bait. The CCSD then switched to a $12 million-and-counting so called “Sustainable Water Facility,” which is still without an EIR, under litigation, and which, if approved, will have to be activated, operated and paid for regardless of whether we are in a water crisis. In the meantime, Mr. Gruber’s Cadillac contract awaits a revisit by the CCSD board.

The priorities of this board are incredibly skewed. Cambria has financial obligations that must be met. Mr. Gruber’s obscene contract is not one of them.

There are three board members whose terms expire in November. Cambria is blessed with so many qualified, educated professionals. Cambrians, please step up to the plate. We can do better and we will support you!

Sherri Bell is retired business owner who served as a management services officer at UCLA for 25 years. She and her husband have owned a home in Cambria since 1982.

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