Most of the money was spent to hire Municipal Recourse Group LLC, a consultant, in May to help the Mountain House Community Services District board review the general manager’s performance and set up policies and procedures for the future. The consultant earned about $16,000, with an option still open to conduct a six-month progress update for $6,000.
Another $4,300 went to pay the town’s lawyer, Mike McGrew, for the hours he sat in on four of the board’s five closed-session meetings on the subject this year, and the five directors were collectively paid $2,500 for those five meetings. Each director receives $100 for every noticed board meeting he or she attends.
The evaluation process, which included one-on-one talks between the consultant and board members and a written review, was completed at the end of July.
The questionnaire ultimately used to evaluate Sensibaugh covered nine categories, which included leadership, interpersonal relations, community relations, judgment and problem solving, financial management and major goals. The board answered between four and six questions in each category using a 1-through-5 scale, from poor to exceptional.
Sensibaugh received an official copy of the evaluation during a July 26 closed-session meeting.
The contents of the evaluation, a personnel matter, were not made public.
The board has not yet discussed whether it will spend the $6,000 to keep working with the consultant, but some members have said they worry about pouring more money into the evaluation, especially during tough economic times.
“I don’t think that it’s absolutely necessary to have them come back,” board president Andy Su said.
Su, who described himself as “fiscally conservative,” said the consultant “provided a good product,” but he thought the board would have done fine without it.
“I didn’t even want to spend the money,” Su said. “I think we probably didn’t need to do it.”
Su was one of two board members who opposed re-evaluating Sensibaugh this year. The board of directors had evaluated the town manager in December 2009 and voted in January 2010 to do so annually in November.
Then, in February, former director Eric Payne asked for a closed-session meeting to discuss Sensibaugh’s job performance.
That month, Payne said he called the meeting to make sure the town’s leadership would be on the same page as the community grows. Payne resigned from the board last month, citing “philosophical differences.”
Su and Bernice Tingle opposed re-evaluating Sensibaugh after just a few months, but the majority — Payne, Matthew Balzarini and Jim Lamb — voted to go into closed session.
Tingle said this week that “no additional money should be wasted” on the evaluation and that she would not approve spending more on the consultant.
She said she’s confident the board of directors can handle any further issues without spending more of the people’s money.
Payne said that if he were still on the board, he too would opt not to spend the extra $6,000.
“We spent $20,000 and nothing has changed, except for the fact that he (Sensibaugh) has a window in which to perform,” Payne said. “I was hoping for a revamping of our leadership.”
Payne said he thinks the board got what it asked for from the consultant, but he said the public might have expected more than a questionnaire used to evaluate the general manager. He said he would have liked to end up with more detailed procedures for future evaluations.
Balzarini, another former director, said he also expected the district would get more tools for the future.
Balzarini left his seat on the board in June, when he was elected as a trustee of the Lammersville Unified School District.
He said the board was right to spend the money on a consultant, because it needed an outsider’s perspective.
“I think, no matter what, it was worth it,” Balzarini said. “The board was so fractured that we couldn’t get anything done.”
In March, Balzarini said “large-ticket items,” such as problems with water billing, had arisen since Sensibaugh’s December evaluation.
To date, the community services district has refunded more than $12,000 to homeowners in Mountain House for wrongfully collected late fees and water reconnection fees.
Board member Lamb said he was “satisfied” with the end result of the evaluation, but it’s too soon to say whether the board should keep working with the consultant.
“It really just depends on how Paul (Sensibaugh) performs on the delivered product,” Lamb said. “At this point, it’s too early to tell. I couldn’t say one way or the other.”
Lamb said it’s likely to depend heavily on who is elected to two open seats on the board in November. He added, though, that the board is “cognizant of the cost, because we’re trying to save every penny we can.”
“We’re certainly not unaware that these things cost money,” Lamb said.
He pointed out that some of the four candidates are more supportive of the community services district, while others are more critical, and the elections will have a “very strong impact” on how the board moves forward.
Sensibaugh said that with the evaluation behind him, he intends to focus on the tasks set out for him during that process.
He said having direction from the board as a whole, instead of piecemeal instructions from individual members, is a “good thing.”
“I think that the goals they set were fair,” Sensibaugh said. “It’s just rewarding to know that the whole board is on that same page.”