Letter to the Editor: “People Upset About TID Story” By David (DJ) Fransen

For some odd reason, some (a very small amount of) people around Turlock are questioning how I (David “DJ” Fransen) got the information for the “TID Board Approves Merit Pay Increases Totaling $492,348” article and why I published it. There is word around Turlock that other media is mad because TurlockCityNews.com “broke” the story, even though it was too late for TurlockCityNews.com’s standards as we like to “inform” people so they can actually have the opportunity to participate in decision making.
I can understand why other media gets upset when another (especially a referred to “blog” site like TurlockCiytNews.com) beats them on a major “scoop,” but I can’t understand why some people who aren’t even related to the issue are upset with this information getting out, and in my opinion, too late.
While I’m stating my opinions and thoughts, I believe I can report news without “leaked,” “confidential” information such as legal memos, close session discussion, or personnel documentation. TurlockCityNews.com (and I personally) get all the information (and apparently more than) all the other media forms. Take the anonymous comments for whatever you like, but the comments on TurlockCityNews.com include more “insider” information than the general public even recognizes while benefitting from the information.
Some people are saying that because TID Director Rob Santos and I are friends that he gave me the TID information. I hope that all this is not a game from other TID Directors, TID Management, or another media form just because they have to address some concerns. Santos has worked hard to respectfully agree to disagree because he is in touch with the community and knew this would be a news story as he was addressing it back in January.
My first issue would be that all of this is public record and why would it be bad “IF” Santos did give me this information since he’s an elected official trying to represent voters with transparency.
Second is, Santos did not contact me, I contacted TID beginning in January about this issue. I think the Merit Pay article clearly points toward references such as the TID Public Information Division Manager Michelle Reimers, TID General Manager Larry Weis, TID Director Santos, and TID Director Fiorini. Besides these references, I researched the issue on the internet.
Third is, “IF” Santos did give me information, he should’ve done it before the action took place.
Turlock activist and Turlock Journal contributor Linda Taylor, refers in a blog that TID Director Rob Santos (and she?) believes that I got the information from an audience member. This is not correct.
The issue with TID Merit Pay originally came up publicly on TurlockCityNews.com when comments were made on a January 20, 2009 TID Agenda posting. It appears as if they were from people who were expecting and wanting to bring it up because the item was not about the raises but some what related dealing with job classification.
TID Director Santos posted a statement saying that he could not support any raises for administration right after they just raised rates and given the economic status. This is the same statement he’s using currently.
I called TID Public Information Division Manager Michelle Reimers and she clarified this agenda item was not about the Merit Pay. She briefly explained what Merit Pay was, probably what the comments were referring to, and that Merit Pay would be coming up in April.
I was going to do a story on it in January but thought I would wait until late March when it was actually being addressed.
For some reason, TurlockCityNews.com (along with the Turlock Journal and Modesto Bee) missed the February 17, 2009 agenda item to approve a resolution for $492,348 in merit pay increases for Managerial, Supervisory, Professional, and Confidential (MSPC) employees of the Turlock Irrigation District at their regular Board Meeting on February 17, 2009. The Merit Pay was to be distributed in April.
Even though I have not discussed this with my “friend” Rob, I am actually a little upset that NONE of the TID Directors (including Rob Santos) had enough concern about this to invite their constituents and/or the media. None of the media was present at the meeting and no TID Director discussion took place as there were only a couple of people in the audience (who I guess didn’t count or worthy of an explanation).
After the decision to approve the Merit Pay, TurlockCityNews.com received anonymous contacts (appearing to be disgruntled TID workers or someone who knew TID workers) upset with the discretionary raises right after TID raised rates. The contacts said that it was a 4-1 vote.
Knowing TID Director Santos’ public comment saying he couldn’t support this Merit Pay during a recession and right after raising rates, I called him. Santos only stated how he voted, his previous statement, and that I needed to wait for the Board Meeting Minutes to see the rest official voting record (and that he told the Journal the same thing) as he was not going to address anything but his own actions and thoughts. Santos said that there was no discussion though because that was all in close session and that he couldn’t discuss those conversations either.
Santos said that if any media was going to do a story, he’d be happy to answer any questions.
I was waiting patiently while frustrated that I failed at my job of informing people with up to date news. I kept getting emails and contacts about the issue while word of mouth was building.
I then decided to email TID Public Information Division Manager Michelle Reimers with an initial Public Information Request and Q&A. She responded with answers to all my questions including the contact information for all the TID Directors and TID General Manager Larry Weis. I called all 5 TID Directors and the General Manager.
TID General Manager Larry Weis spent an hour or so explaining TID’s general operations and the Merit Compensation Program (that he set up). I appreciated it and used some of that information for my own knowledge and some of that information for the article.
TID Directors Rob Santos (Division 4), and Randy Fiorini (Division 5) responded, giving their views towards a TurlockCityNews.com article.
TID Directors Phillip N. Short (Division I), Michael C. Berryhill, Sr. (Division 3), and TID President Charles Fernandes (Division 2) did not return phone messages left by TurlockCityNews.com.
So why are people upset that TurlockCityNews.com was the first one to be late reporting this important public information? Why are people upset that TurlockCityNews.com made emails and phone calls to get the public information? Why are people not more upset that all media forms missed this and one major newspaper still hasn’t even reported it yet?
In this order: Business (media), Politics (TID Directors and probably other elected officials), and ultimately money (TID Management).

If any person is upset about this information getting out and not part of any of the three areas stated, they are unfortunately just pawns.
I appreciate contributed information towards recent articles from my elected officials including Mayor John Lazar, Vice Mayor Ted Howze, Councilman Kurt Spycher, Councilwoman Mary Jackson, TID Director Rob Santos, and TID Randy Fiorini.
David (DJ) Fransen

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