South Coast Water District to mull raising salary, bonus for general manager

South Coast Water District general manager Rick Shintaku. Photo courtesy of SCWD

The South Coast Water District Board of Directors will consider a raise for its general manager, giving him an annual base salary of more than $250,000, during its Thursday meeting.

General Manager Rick Shintaku has led the district servicing about 12,500 connections in South Laguna, Dana Point, Capistrano Beach, and neighboring communities since October 2018.

Board president Rick Erkeneff was tapped by fellow board members as the negotiator for  Shintaku’s contract, which currently includes a base salary of $243,979 per year. The proposed salary increases range from 3% to 6%—the latter would put Shintaku at $258,618 per year.

Board members will also consider increasing the district’s $1,600 annual contribution to Shintaku’s voluntary retirement plan and an undefined performance bonus for Fiscal Year 2020-21.

“The Agreement has a provision that allows for the Board to award a bonus in recognition of his performance during the evaluation period,” Erkeneff wrote in a staff report. “The Negotiator notes that [last fiscal year] had many unprecedented challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Erkeneff declined to comment on why he supports adjusting Shintaku’s compensation before Thursday’s meeting.

“This matter is still an active negotiation, so no board members should be commenting on this item to the press or anyone for that matter, nor would I want to individually discuss this outside of the formal process prior to our meeting,” Erkeneff wrote in an email Thursday morning.

Laguna Beach County Water District Board of Directors approved a contract with General Manager Keith Van Der Maaten that includes a $272,000 annual base salary effective Jan. 1, 2021.

On Thursday, the board members will also consider changing a bylaw that would allow them to be compensated up to $2,550 per month for their service as elected officials.

Since 2019, board members have been paid $255 for each day they attend meetings on behalf of the agency. They capped the number of service days at 10 per month.

On Thursday, they’ll consider expanding the definition of qualified events to include any regional public agency that includes South Coast Water District as a member, advisory committees discussing topics of interest to the district, and city council meetings, dedications, or State of the City events within the district’s service area.

“It is just necessary housekeeping which formally defines which meetings are allowed to be considered for compensation,” Erkeneff wrote in an email.

He also pointed out that the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Orange County planning commissioners, city council members, design review board members, and water board members across the state have received compensation for decades.

Laguna Beach councilmembers are paid $908 per month, Laguna Beach planning commissioners and design review board members are paid $392 per month, and Laguna Beach arts commissioners are paid $137 per month. All other Laguna Beach committee and board member positions are unpaid.

South Coast Water District is still mulling the costs and benefits of building the Doheny Ocean Desalination Project. The districts’ consultant estimated the project will cost at least $71 million for a scaled-down version.

Although South Coast Water, has floated selling desalinated water to neighboring water agencies, including the Santa Margarita and Laguna Beach County water districts, none have committed to such a deal. These agencies have previously shared that they’re open to buying locally-sourced water if the price is right.

The Water Board will meet via conference call at 6 p.m. on Thursday. For details on how to comment visit and click on “Public Meeting Information.”

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  1. WOW!!! Who knew that there was so much $$$$$$ in H20????

    Is this a performance based raise or cost of living raise…or WHY the raise? Should the raise be dictated on conservation of water or employees? Is the raise based on raining the water rates for us that USE the water?

    What’s South Coast Water District doing about the cesspool that lingers on the shore of Aliso Beach?

    Seems like a quarter of a MILLION dollars a year is a LOT of money…..water is the new liquid gold.


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