Newberry CSD Board
Again Violates the Brown Act
George Orwell's 1984
Newberry CSD:  ' We know what is best for you.'

Recent $$$ investment in CSD board training
hasn't shown any CSD board improvement.

February 14, 2013

      Despite the CSD board and its general manager taking the day off last January 22 to attend a special one-day CSD training session at the district's expense, the board still isn't understanding the Ralph Brown Act that sets law for the open transparency of governmental meetings.

      "The Brown Act (Gov. Code 54950 et seq.) governs meetings conducted by local legislative bodies.  The objective of the law is to facilitate public participation by requiring that open meetings be held by local legislative bodies."

      The Act establishes law that is based upon the principle that:

      "The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created."                                                                                           (California Government Code § 54950)

      The Brown Act establishes the legal requirements for advance notice of public meetings and their agenda.

      The Newberry CSD board, on February 8, 2013, held a Special Meeting that apparently not only violated the spirit of the Brown Act, but the law itself.

      In brief, there are three basic types of governmental meetings relating to California Community Service Districts:

(1)  A Regular Meeting that is scheduled on a regular set basis.  It requires an agenda and notice being properly posted at least 72-hours before the meeting.  (Cal. Gov. Code § 54954.2)

(2)  A Special Meeting requires a 24-hour notice with a brief general description of the matters to be considered or discussed.  Special Meetings are reserved for only special circumstances whereby an actionable specific agenda item is deemed so important and time sensitive that the majority of the board agrees that it cannot wait until the next Regular Meeting.  Special Meetings are also called when it is necessary for the board to meet at a different location for a special purpose.  (Cal. Gov. Code § 54956)

(3)  Finally, there is an Emergency Meeting that requires one hour notice in case of work stoppage or crippling activity, except in the case of a dire emergency; whereby prior notice can be waived if severe emergency circumstances requires immediate board action to prevent or mitigate the threat of injury or damage.  (Cal. Gov. Code § 54956.5)

There are additional regulations for Closed Session Agendas and other scenarios that won't be burdened here.

      The Special Meeting called by the Newberry CSD board on February 8, 2013 did not contain any special prerequisite in the agenda (8.3 MB) that would have qualified it for a Special Meeting.  The driving excuse behind it was apparently agenda Business Item "A" to accept a contract for new legal representation.

      The Newberry CSD has gone for a long period without legal counsel.  However, according to Newberry CSD general manager, Paulette Marshall, there is currently no pending litigation.  So there was no legitimate reason why this matter could not have been held off until the next Regular Meeting whereby the public would have had their entitled right by law to properly monitor the CSD's board action.

      The short public notice for the Special Meeting and the afternoon 3:30 P.M. meeting time prevented many citizens from attending the meeting.  Only three public members were reported in attendance.

      In the Special Meeting planning, the CSD board illegally loaded the Special Meeting agenda with an additional six (6) miscellaneous Regular Meeting business items.  These items did not meet any urgency criteria to meet the diminished 24-hour notice period and was clearly a circumvention of the Ralph Brown Act.

      After the agenda was posted for legal notice, and before the meeting, the Community Alliance received a copy of an e-mail that one of our community members had sent the board.  It was a Brown Act advisory suggesting corrective action be taken to cure the violation.  This matter was later brought-up at the board meeting itself by another Newberrian addressing serious concern.

      At the meeting, the board refused to alter their agenda to be in compliance with the law and they did willfully and intentionally discuss and act upon all seven (7) agenda items; including voting acceptance of a contract for new counsel despite the prior knowledge of the Brown Act conflict.  As a result, the board's actions on all of the agenda items appears to be illegal and currently voidable.  With circuses like this, there is little wonder why the county's grand jury is involved.

      The CSD board also held a prior Special Meeting this year on January 13.  That Special Meeting was also illegal !   The published agenda clearly failed to meet Brown Act requirements.  The description of the meeting's business only states: "Legal counsel."  This fails the Brown Act litmus test in not being descriptive enough to inform the public about the nature of the Special Meeting.

      "Legal counsel" means WHAT?  This cryptic agenda description could be involving dozens of past, present, or future matters involving legal counsel; or anything legal.  Descriptions of agenda items are allowed to be very brief; but, the Brown Act requires that they must provide an understanding of what the agenda item is about in order for the public to decide whether they wish to attend the meeting.  The CSD board votes approval of the agenda at the start of each meeting and is responsible for business conducted under it.

      One explanation why the Newberry CSD board may be holding these Special Meetings may lie in these hard economic times.  Each board member is paid $100.00 for attending each CSD board meeting (5 directors = $500.00 total per meeting ) whether Regular or Special; and doing very little as paid staff does most of the work.  It wasn't that long ago when there were no stipends; the directors served as a public service. . . until they became so bold as to start dipping into the CSD's treasury for themselves.

      Why the Newberry CSD board continues to willfully violate the Brown Act, especially when pre-warnings are given, can only be construed as arrogrance, disrespect, and contempt for the citizens of Newberry Springs and the law.

      Ultimately, the voters of Newberry Springs are responsible.  The voters hold responsibility for those they place into office and the incumbents that they need to remove.