Kathy Ridler's Election To
CSD Board May Be Voidable

January 30, 2013

Runner-up candidate Robert Springer addresses the CSD board prior to the board's voting.

CSD board's secret voting during open meeting may be illegal.

      The Newberry CSD board may have once again violated the Ralph Brown Act.

      During the January 29, 2013 regular meeting the board voted by secret ballot to elect a director to replace the seat vacated by Robert Seeley.

      California state law however is clear:  Goverment Code § 54953(c)  No legislative body shall take action by secret ballot, whether preliminary or final.

      Unless an item under consideration falls under the closed meeting exception, the matter must be conducted in an open public forum.  (68 OpsCal.Atty.Gen. 65 (1985))

      The CSD board consisting of Robert Royalty, Diana Williams, Wayne Snively, and Calvin Owens held four series of balloting before candidate Kathy Ridler was elected.  After each time a vote was taken, the ballots were collected by CSD General Manager Paulette Marshall, counted solely by her, whereafter she declared the vote outcome.

      The Newberry Springs Community Alliance has been very impressed by Paulette Marshall's performance with the CSD.  Despite some irregularities, she appears to have performed very well for the short time that she has had to familiarize herself with her complex duties.

      Despite this favorable review, a problem with methodology is apparent that without a verification of the vote count, the winning candidate is whoever Marshall declared.  Even with verification, a violation of law exists that the public is deprived of knowing how each director voted.

      Citizens have a right to attend and participate in the political process.  When secret votes are cast by officials, the public loses a portion of the right to scrutinize the decision-making process.  (59 OpsCal.Atty.Gen. 619, 621-622 (1976))

      The CSD board chose to fill the vacancy by board vote rather than allowing a special election of the community's voters.  This saved a great deal of money; but by taking the responsibility upon themselves, the board must be open to transparency in how they voted.

      The failure of the board to legally vote upon the candidates opens the door for a challenge that can invalidate the election; and it taints whatever Ridler later votes upon.

      The January 2013 regular board meeting was held one week later than normal to allow the board and its General Manager to attend special training to improve their CSD skills.

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