Last week, Rural Water District No. 4 filled a vacancy on its board.
If you didn’t know that there was a vacancy, don’t feel bad. Nobody outside the district knew until two days before directors made the appointment.
Don’t blame the board or the man who was named to the vacant seat. They simply followed the district’s bylaws, which require that a board vacancy be filled by the remaining directors.
That’s it. No procedure. No rules for how to declare a vacancy, how to publicize it or how to apply to fill it.
In sharp contrast, the bylaws have specific rules for each step before and during annual board elections to ensure maximum patron participation.
At the end of the process, either a director is elected in a contested vote or a director is declared to be elected because only one candidate filed for the open seat.
Despite the big disparity in how directors are chosen at the annual meeting versus how vacant seats are filled, the directors seated by either method have exactly the same authority.
RWD needs to propose a bylaw change for the next annual meeting which requires that vacancies be publicized and sets up procedures for eligible patrons to file an application for the office using a standardized form.
That way, the board will chose a new director from all the eligible people who want to serve.
Patrons interested in expressing a preference for a candidate will have an opportunity to do so.
RWD 4 is a well-run, member-owned utility which operates on democratic principles. These bylaw changes would make it even better at no financial cost and only a modest delay. That’s just good public policy.