INDIAN WELLS – The Coachella Valley Public Cemetery District will meet for the first time with a newly expanded board of five trustees.

The board of trustees meeting will be held at 8 a.m. Friday, Sept. 21 at the Law Offices of Best, Best and Krieger in Indian Wells, 74-760 Highway 111. You may read the agenda  here.

A meeting of a full board is typically not newsworthy in and of itself. But you recall that in May a blistering civil grand jury report revealed a lack of leadership and a lack of training among trustees for the Coachella Valley Public Cemetery District. The grand jury found no financial improprieties or fiscal mismanagement.

The report, months in the making, revealed a dysfunctional board mired in conflict, disorganization, exclusion of one particular board member, and possible Brown Act violations.

Bluntly stated, it had been a board run amok and for all intents and purposes behind closed doors. It appeared to be a case of the tail wagging the dog. The manager, rather than the trustees, was calling shots.

Two cemetery district trustees and the general manager “purposely excluded the third trustee, Marcos Coronel, from meetings since March 2017, according to the Grand Jury report. They also hired a private firm to investigate Coronel, using $2,000 from the District’s general fund.

One of the solutions included expanding the board.

Supervisor V. Manuel Perez will attend and administer the Oath of Office to the board members.

“I was proud to work closely with the Cemetery District to expand the board and also find well‑qualified people with extensive community involvement and board service to join this board,” Perez said in a prepared statement. “The Coachella Valley Cemetery District is building stronger connections with special district associations and the neighboring Palm Springs Cemetery District to take the district to the next level. I think we’re going to see some great improvements to a cemetery district that is run pretty well overall.”

Formed in 1928, the Coachella Valley Public Cemetery District is an independent special district that serves the public cemetery needs of the district, which spans 3,444 square miles in the Coachella Valley.

Over the summer, at the request of the cemetery district, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors increased the number of members on the board from three to five trustees. Expanding the board was a principal recommendation in a recent Riverside County Civil Grand Jury report.

At the public hearing adopting the change, Perez cited that a larger board would be a better mechanism for avoiding potential communication and Brown Act issues of a three‑member board.

Supervisor Perez appointed Ernesto Rosales and Dr. Bruce Underwood to fill the two newly created seats, as well as John Rios to fill a vacancy. The new members will join Joe Ceja and Marcos Coronel Jr. on the five-member board of trustees.

Perez represents the eastern two-thirds of Riverside County on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. Stretching from Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs, south to the Salton Sea and east to Blythe and the Colorado River, the 4th District is the largest geographical district in the county.

Photo caption: Supervisor V. Manuel Perez with Ernesto Rosales and Dr. Bruce Underwood. Photo courtesy of Perez’s office.