Phones rang at the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District Tuesday in the wake of revelations by KRQE News 13 that the districts chief executive retired, kept his job and approve a quarter-million-dollar payout to himself.
Get ready for fireworks.
On Monday News 13 investigative reporter Larry Barker described the payment for accrued vacation time normally not allowed by district policy. There was also a severance payment when Shah's contract ended only to be replaced by a new contract.
And there was the paper retirement that allowed Shah to draw both a paycheck from the district and a pension from PERA, the Public Employees Retirement Association.
Over the past five years, Shah has taken in $1.4 million in salary, pension benefits, accumulated vacation and severance pay.
The irrigation district's headquarters took at least 15 phone calls Tuesday, and district board members took more.
Board member Bill Turner received several calls and e-mails and said one called, Shah "a poster child for double dipping."
Another wrote, "I didn't know why PERA didn't challenge it while it was happening."
Turner wants this to spur policy changes.
"That the board will begin to deal with some of these overtime policies that have allowed him to accumulate over 3,000 hours of annual leave," he said.
Last week Barker reveals similar double-dipping in state government and Albuquerque City Hall. Legislators meeting in Santa Fe have voted to ban the practice under a current law that can be used by public employees to go through the motions of retiring without actually giving up their jobs.
Albuquerque's mayor said he, too, would stop the practice in the future and would still exempt retiring police officers.
Meanwhile the conservancy district telling callers and e-mailers complaining about Shah's pay and perks that they are welcome to attend Friday's special board meeting.
"We also explain to them that our legal counsel for personnel went before the board last night, and said that these are perfectly appropriate contracts in the buyouts and the payouts," district spokesman Dennis Domrzalski said.
The meeting is scheduled for Friday morning at the conservancy's headquarters.
"What I hope that would happen at the meeting is that would be that Shah would offer his resignation," Turner said.
Turner may call for Shah's resignation, but it's unclear if he'll have the votes. One of Shah's supporters said a factor works in his favor: there doesn't appear to be anyone ready to step in and take over.
The PERA is now looking into whether Shah followed its rules when he retired.
His double dipping nets him $95,000 a year in pension on top of his $151,000 annual salary as chief engineer and chief executive of the conservancy district.