Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2017  
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  E.J. Shalaby Should Remain at the Helm of the West County Wastewater District
January 31, 2017

I would like to ask Richmonders to support E,J. Shalaby, long-time  manager of the West County Wastewater District, which serves a substantial portion of Richmond. By all accounts Shalaby has been an exemplary manager, winning many awards for the District and keeping sewer fees among the lowest in the Bay Area.

His contract is the subject of a closed session hearing tomorrow night, and there are indications that some board members may be calling for his ouster (see East Bay Times article copied below).

I first met E.J. when he was managing the Richmond wastewater plant for Veolia. He was doing such a good job, he was recruited by West County Wastewater District where he has been ever since. Richmond’s loss was West County’s gain. He has been deeply involved in the community, including serving as president of the Richmond Rotary Club, of which I am a member and past-president.

The West County Wastewater District meeting begins tomorrow (Wednesday) at 6:00 PM, and begins with public comment where you can speak on closed session items. The meeting is at WCWD, 2910 Hilltop Dr, Richmond , Ca,510-222-6700.

You can also contact the board at:

The basis of the closed session hearing on Shalaby’s contract is not clear, but it may be a result of criticism by Public Employees Union Local 1 related to Shalaby’s stance on labor negotiations several years ago involving employees’ contributions to pensions.

Tom Butt

Richmond: Sewer district board appears set to dump longtime GM

Longtime West County Wastewater GM E.J. Shalaby is the subject of a “Public Employee Performance Evaluation and Possible Dismissal/Release….,” to be discussed by the governing board on Wednesday. 

West County Wastewater District executive director E.J. Shalaby.   (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)
West County Wastewater District executive director E.J. Shalaby. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)
By Tom Lochner | |
PUBLISHED: January 31, 2017 at 7:16 am | UPDATED: January 31, 2017 at 10:53 am

RICHMOND –The West County Wastewater District board, with three new members sworn in less than two months ago, is set to decide Feb. 1 on the fate of longtime General Manager E.J. Shalaby.

David Alvarado, Sherry Ann Stanley and Harry Wiener, elected Nov. 8, will join Board President Leonard McNeil and Vice President Audrey Comeaux in voting on a closed-session agenda item ominously titled “Public Employee Performance Evaluation and Possible Dismissal/Release….,” although McNeil said late Friday nothing has been decided.

During Shalaby’s 13-year tenure, the agency has won more than two dozen national, state and industry awards for excellence.

The board will meet at 6 p.m. at district headquarters, 2910 Hilltop Drive, Richmond.

“E.J. has received his performance evaluation and the board now has to vote whether they want to agree to renew his contract for another year,” McNeil said. Asked why the agenda item was worded as a “possible dismissal/release,” McNeil said, “I don’t know why they did that” and “I would not have worded it like that.”

Shalaby’s one-year contract expired Nov. 30. McNeil, in an email Monday, said the performance evaluation went past that date due to several factors, citing: “the process of hiring a consultant, scheduling and completing interviews of trustees and the executive management team, three members rotating off the board and three new members coming onto the board and requiring time to get up to speed on the documents, vacations, illness, waiting for EJ’s self-evaluation, board member and staff travel, emergency responses due to the rain.”

McNeil acknowledged that “E.J. has made a significant and substantive contribution to the West County Wastewater District and the wastewater industry as a whole.”

Shalaby “brought solar energy to the board,” McNeil said Friday, and he also is part of a multi-agency effort to explore
biosolids-to-energy conversion among other resource recovery technologies seeking to address climate change.

But McNeil added, “There’s more to his duties and responsibilities as the manager.”

Asked about a perception, reported to this newspaper by several people closely involved with the district, that Shalaby is being forced out, McNeil said that if anything leaked out, it did not come from the board.

“We presented him (Shalaby) with his performance evaluation,”McNeil said. “He may have looked at it in terms of the Xs in the areas that need improvement and surmised that it didn’t look good.”

McNeil said he could not provide more details, explaining, “Because it’s a personnel matter, there’s only so much that can be said.”

Shalaby last week described the matter as a “discretionary business decision” that is up to the board.

Alvarado, Stanley and Wiener were endorsed by Public Employees Union Local 1 in the Nov. 8 election, as were McNeil and Comeaux two years earlier.

Relations between the union and the district have at times been rocky, as they were during labor negotiations several years ago, when Shalaby called for workers to contribute to their pensions.

Calls to Local 1 business agent Genevieve Vigil were not immediately returned.

A former board member explained that Shalaby was only carrying out what the then-board told him to.

“E.J., in my mind, has been an exemplary general manager,” said Michael Caine, who lost a bid for reelection in November. “He has steered the ship exactly the way we wanted. He has done everything we have asked him to do since coming on board.”

A list of awards received by the West County agency during Shalaby’s tenure, for Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit Compliance, financial excellence, planning, plant operation, solar energy and public education, is available here.