Updated: Friday, 13 Mar 2009, 10:25 PM MDT
Published : Friday, 13 Mar 2009, 10:25 PM MDT
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District may be headed for a makeover in the wake of a News 13 investigation into double dipping extra payments for its chief executive.
On Friday defenders of Subhas Shah, the district's chief engineer and executive, compared the news coverage to an old-time lynching. However the district board meeting in special session and during part of the meeting behind closed doors decided to review the contracts of all district employees.
Some of those contracts may need to be restructured, board members said.
"It's like a forest fire," district board member Jim Roberts told News 13. "When you get done with it there's some green growth coming up afterwards, and I hope that's just the way it ends up becoming."
In two recent reports News 13 investigative reporter Larry Barker revealed how numerous public employees have used a state law to go through the motions of retiring while keeping their jobs allowing them to draw both of paycheck and pension. The process has become known as double dipping.
Some of those workers cited in Barker's reports didn't bother to vacate their jobs for 90 days as the law required.
Shah, chief engineer of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, is one of the double dippers. However he also received a $73,000 severance payment without being severed and overrode a district policy to cash in unused vacation and leave worth nearly $250,000.
"It's hard to get good employees sometimes," and Daniel Bracken, a farmer and rancher in the district said. "Some employees are worth it,"
The district board approved both payments to Shah, and its members defended Shah during Friday's meeting. However they said they also will look into changing the district's management structure.
Shah has been with the MRGCD for more than 30 years.
The board said it will keep Shah in place as the chief executive office and chief engineer but may split up his duties.
All employees contracts will be reviewed, specifically how they will be paid for unused vacation and sick time.
"That's fine to review the contracts and makes some changes if they think it's necessary," Shah said after the meeting.
The proposed changes will be drawn up by the board's attorney and discussed at future meetings. Board members would not say if they will ask Subhas Shah to repay any of the money.