Emerald Bay Special District Months Late in Reporting Data

Emerald Bay Service District home page
Print More

The tiny Emerald Bay Service District in coastal Orange County is months late in providing required employee compensation data to the state, according to officials from the state controller’s office.

The most recent round of data, for 2011, was originally due in October 2012, with the deadline extended to the end of that year, according to controller’s office spokesman Jacob Roper.

Yet the district still hasn’t provided the information, even after the controller’s office contacted the accountant who provided district’s 2010 data, Roper said.

Mike Dunbar, general manager of the Emerald Bay Service District, didn’t return a reporter’s phone call seeking comment.

Formed in 1960, the agency provides serves about 500 homes in the Emerald Bay gated community in unincorporated North Laguna Beach. It collects about $1.8 million per year in property taxes and contracts its services out to the local homeowners’ association.

The district provides water, sewage, trash, parks, street maintenance and security services for the neighborhood, according to the county grand jury.

State Controller John Chiang started collecting compensation data from public agencies and posting it online after a 2010 scandal in Los Angeles County’s city of Bell, where Los Angeles Times reporters revealed that city officials were secretly paying themselves enormous salaries.

The Emerald Bay district is the last holdout agency in Orange County to refuse to give up its compensation data, according to the controller’s listing of noncompliant agencies.

Last year, the Transportation Corridor Agencies or TCA, which run the toll roads in South Orange County, refused to disclose their compensation data to the controller’s office.

Two days after Voice of OC called TCA about the issue, the agencies reversed their positions and vowed to send the data within 24 hours.

That data ended up showing that TCA’s then CEO, Tom Margro, was paid $301,000 in total wages each year, which was $100,000 more than the director of the California Department of Transportation.

While it remains to be seen whether the Emerald Bay district will provide the data, it isn’t the only issue raising transparency questions.

The district’s website is password protected, making it impossible to see basic public agency information such as upcoming meetings, agendas and budget documents.

A county grand jury report last year showed $1.8 million in revenue to the district and $6.7 million in total assets. The district has also built up a hefty cash reserve of $2.8 million, according to the report, which is larger than its annual budget.

A job listing for the district says it shares four employees with the Emerald Bay Community Association.

As for the meetings taking place in a gated community, the Ralph M. Brown Act states that in general, “all meetings of the legislative body of a local agency shall be open and public, and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting of the legislative body of a local agency.”

While it’s unclear whether the gates are opened during the board meetings, outside visitors are greeted with a sign that states “PRIVATE COMMUNITY / WARNING: NO TRESPASSING / Violators Will be Prosecuted.”

The district’s 2010 data doesn’t list salary information for any staff members. Instead it shows that the only employees are the uncompensated board of directors.

Emerald Bay has also had apparently had trouble enlisting residents to run for the board. Nobody ran for two vacant seats in the 2008 general election, according to a letter from the district to the county.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

Comments are closed.