Sometime after the Edwards Aquifer Authority board's executive committee met around midday Monday, board chair Luana Buckner chose to put the EAA's general manager on paid administrative leave, surprising some board members and angering others.
Karl Dreher directed water resources for the State of Idaho before the EAA board appointed him to the general manager post in March 2010. He's led the authority though dealings between downstream municipalities and industries and the larger agricultural users and cities that pump heavily from the Edwards. EAA spokesman Roland Ruiz said Dreher's future with the EAA will be discussed at the board's next meeting, set for June 12, but couldn't comment on why Dreher's position with the EAA was under fire.
"We're kind of in an awkward situation," Ruiz said. "It's obviously a personnel issue between the board and the general manager, and as a staff we just haven't been privy to all those discussions."
Buckner did not to return a call for comment left Tuesday. While her action was unexpected, board member and secretary Enrique Valdivia said there had been some notable tension between Dreher and EAA staff. “I've heard some criticisms of him, but he always addressed my concerns very well,” Valdivia said. “I'm a lawyer, and he's a more technical guy, so I found him really knowledgeable when talking about the nuts and bolts of water issues."
"Apparently he just ran into a buzz saw with staff," he added.
Board members' most recent evaluations of Dreher's performance covering calendar year 2011 raise no serious red flags. Provided to the Current today under a state open records request, most of the comments are generally positive, while some say Dreher could foster better relationships with both staff and legislators. Another board member wasn't thrilled that Dreher "seems to dress down when he comes to Uvalde to meet with area officials." You can read the evaluations and comments here.
“I don't concur at all with what's happened,” said Ron Ellis, another EAA board member and treasurer, when reached Tuesday. “I think Karl has done an absolutely superb job.” He suggested the board's bylaws, and Dreher's employment agreement with the EAA, don't allow for Buckner to take such action on her own. "I can tell you, it's going to be a very interesting board meeting we've got coming up," Ellis said.
Lauro Bustamante, another EAA board member, fired off an email to members late Monday echoing the sentiment, demanding Dreher be reinstated immediately and that an emergency board meeting be called this week for a “vote to remove Luana Buckner as chairperson for misconduct in taking action with out [sic] the authority or vote and approval of the board.”