56.3 F
Thousand Oaks

Calleguas Water District Dramatically Increased Top Salaries During Drought While Residents Sacrificed Lawns

While Conejo Valley residents were being asked to kill their lawns and conserve water during what Calleguas Municipal Water District referred to as “unprecedented water shortages requiring severe cutbacks,” top staff at Calleguas were enjoying large increases in pay and benefits.

Source: Salary includes base pay and benefits. Data provided by Calleguas to TransparentCalifornia.com. Kristine McCaffrey’s 2024 employment contract was provided to the Conejo Guardian and can be viewed at conejoguardian.org.

Anthony Goff, a longtime Calleguas employee and recently retired general manager, saw his pay and benefits rise 57 percent in just four years. The first jump was from $274,729 in 2019 to $345,232 in 2020 when he changed roles, a 26 percent increase, according to TransparentCalifornia.com. In 2022, Goff’s pay and benefits zoomed past $400,000 even as Calleguas restricted homeowners to one day a week for watering landscapes.

By the time Goff stepped down in January 2024, after just three and a half years in the top role, his pay was estimated at $483,750. (This number includes base pay plus the average value of Goff’s benefits for the three prior years, which was $87,000 annually.)

Other top brass saw similar pay hikes during drought years, while consumers were paying more for water and being forced to let their lawns and plants die.

While executive salaries soared, Calleguas Water District launched a strategy “to inspire swift, yet permanent, changes in customers’ water use.”

Robert Peters, Calleguas manager of operations and maintenance, saw a whopping 71 percent increase in pay from 2019 to 2022, to $318,392 in pay and benefits.

Dan Smith, manager of administrative services, received a 25 percent increase, to $311,343, during that time period.

Operations supervisor Julio Reyes enjoyed a 42 percent increase to $277,611.

Other big-jumpers included system maintenance supervisor John Gomez, with an increase in pay and benefits of 57 percent; senior operator Casey Versteeg, with an increase of 33 percent; manager of resources Daniel Drugan, with an increase of 35 percent; and John Graumlich, associate general manager, with an increase of 33 percent.

These pay increases came primarily out of customers’ pockets. According to Calleguas, its revenue comes from “property tax revenues, water sales, interest on investments, and hydroelectric power sales.” According to the Public Policy Institute of California, “California spends about $37 billion annually, with the lion’s share (84 percent) coming from local water bills and taxes. The balance comes from state (13 percent) and federal (3 percent) contributions.”

Calleguas has exclusive rights in our area to distribute water to service providers such as California-American Water Company (serving Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park), California Water Service Company (serving eastern areas of Thousand Oaks) and the City of Thousand Oaks.

In response to the Guardian’s inquiry, Calleguas Board President Scott Quady wrote: “Concerning our General Manager’s compensation, it is entirely consistent with the relevant market and matches that of neighboring water districts, both inside and outside of Ventura County. A salary survey specific to that position was updated in September of 2023, with 12 comparator agencies evaluated. Findings showed that the average salary for that position was $383,417. At the time, the Calleguas General Manager’s salary was $345,000 – well below market. The Board voted to increase that salary to levels consistent with the industry and known high cost of living in Ventura County.”

Quady’s full letter can be found below.

While large pay increases were being approved, Calleguas hired JPW Communications, a design consultant who was paid $119,784 from Jan. 2023 to Jan. 2024 to create “A campaign to inspire immediate action in drought” among customers in the Calleguas Municipal Water District.

According to the consultant’s own website, “Calleguas engaged JPW Communications to develop a strategy to inspire swift, yet permanent, changes in customers’ water use in response to emergency water conservation requirements.”

JPW Communications listed its campaign goals as the following:

  • “Convince customers it was important to conserve water during this drought
  • Increase brand awareness for Calleguas within its service area
  • Establish the agency as the region’s trusted water supplier and source of drought information
  • Tie into local community values that resonate to customers in southern Ventura County.”

Calleguas chose the slogan, “The Landscape Is Change,” which, according to the consultant, “reinforced a positive perception about drought-resistant landscape.” The marketing plan aimed at customers included “postcards, bill stuffers, video, a series of print and digital ads and a new website,” among other things.

“The crown jewel of the campaign,” JPW Communications wrote, “was the creation of a landscape style guide, a hand-illustrated guide for customers to inspire customers to save water by reimagining their landscaping using colorful, more drought-tolerant plants.”

Meanwhile, Calleguas raised employee pay broadly. By 2022, the most recent year for which information is available, 62 of Calleguas’s 80 employees earned $100,000 or more, with the median salary at $153,000. During the drought years, Calleguas increased pay by an average of 22 percent for all employees.

But the biggest beneficiaries have been Calluegas’s higher-ups.

Goff’s successor, General Manager Kristine McCaffrey, also a longtime employee at the water district, picked up where Goff left off, earning a base salary of $396,750 upon taking the helm on Jan. 25, 2024. Her package includes a vehicle and paid expenses, plus other health and retirement benefits, averaging at least another $59,000 based on McCaffrey’s prior benefit data. This makes McCaffrey’s overall pay and benefits well over $450,000 for her first year as general manager. A copy of her employment agreement can be viewed below.

Continued water price hikes will lead to “rate protests” that “have the effect of eroding trust in the institution.”

— Calleguas Board President Scott Quady, March 2024

Concerning McCaffrey, Board President Quady told the Guardian, “Ms. McCaffrey is exceptionally qualified to lead the district, as an M.I.T.-educated engineer with 20 years of experience in various roles at Calleguas … Additionally, she is one of only two female General Managers of the 26-member Metropolitan Water District member agencies. We are fortunate to have her at the helm.”

While Calleguas’s salaries are soaring, in recent weeks, Quady and top executives have publicly called ongoing water rate increases politically problematic and “unsustainable.” Quady said in public comments to the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) Board on March 12, 2024, that continued price hikes will lead to “rate protests” which “even when ultimately unsuccessful, have the effect of eroding trust in the institution seeking the increase. They can change the politics of the city or water agency, and often not in a good way.”

Metropolitan Water District, also a public utility, is the supplier of water to Calleguas. Metropolitan’s own general manager, Adel Hagekhalil, makes $525,087 in annual pay and benefits.

A follow-up memo from executives at Calleguas to their own Board on March 20, 2024, called skyrocketing water costs “unsustainable.” The memo, from Dan Smith, finance manager for Calleguas, and Henry Graumlich, executive strategist, told the Calleguas Board that Metropolitan’s initial budget and rate proposal in Feb. 2024 “proposes an increase of 13% for 2024/2025 and 8% for 2025/2026 for untreated water, in addition to a proposed 30% increase in the treatment surcharge.”

The memo continued, “Water rates are going up primarily due to historic low water sales coupled with high fixed costs recovered predominantly on variable revenue based on the sale of water. The use of reserves to fund operations to compensate for budget shortfalls over the last two years has depleted Metropolitan’s reserves. The current rate structure is unsustainable.”

Calleguas has five geographically elected directors overseeing the water district, three of whom are up for re-election this fall. The Board members are:

  • Board President, Scott Quady* (Division 2 – Thousand Oaks/Newbury Park/Oak Park)
  • Vice President Andy Waters* (Division 3 – Moorpark/Newbury Park/West Thousand Oaks)
  • Secretary Raul Avila* (Division 1 – Simi Valley)
  • Treasurer Jacque McMillan** (Division 5 – Oxnard/Camarillo)
  • Director Thibault Robert** (Division 4 – Oxnard/Port Hueneme)

*Division is up for election in November 2024.
**Division is up for election in November 2026.

Below is a chart with the pay and benefits for the two most recent general managers. Data for 2023 is not shown, but the State Controller’s Office is scheduled to publish it in Aug. 2024.

1 COMMENT

  1. Looks like I chose the wrong industry to be a part of…
    These salaries are INSANELY high, and far exceed anything in the private sector…
    These mid managers are making as much as CEO’s in the private sector, not including our biotech VC.
    This hopefully causes a revolt, because this is egregious!!!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related

Latest