March 16, 2013
CSD President and Chair, Robert Royalty (left),
confers with General Manager Paulette Marshall during the February 26, 2013 general board meeting.
CSD General Manager and Custodian of Records
conspires with others by refusing to release records.
As earlier reported in the Community Alliance Blotter, the Newberry
CSD's general meeting of February 26, 2013 had another spectacular mini-drama when Director Diana
Williams sponsored an agenda item that accused a fire department volunteer of fraudulently
misrepresenting a personal driver's training fee of $700 as an authorized and budgeted fire
department training expense.
Although not mentioned by name on the agenda, CSD director Calvin Owens
was clearly identified in the strong
When the agenda item came up for discussion, Calvin Owens pontificated
that the matter was a personal attack against him. Then chairman Robert Royalty, ignoring the
documentation, immediately chimed-in waving a prepared paper in the air and declaring
that he had received an opinion from the CSD's legal counsel that he (Royalty), as
chairman, could unilaterally remove the agenda item from the meeting; which he did.
Surprised by Royalty's claim and action, directors Diana William
and Wayne Snively unsuccessfully contested.
In an attempt to understand what happened, the Newberry Springs
Community Alliance made a California Public Records Act (CPRA) request with the Newberry CSD the
following day for all documents, including attorney billings, related to the removal of the
agenda item from the meeting.
Troubling is the alleged crime that a director, using the color of his
position as a firefighter and CSD director, would allegedly steal $700 from the district through
lies and misrepresentation; and then have the support from the current CSD President who
allegedly employed the CSD's legal counsel at a cost of yet more CSD funds to cover-up
The engagement of legal counsel is customarily done by board
approval. That requires a majority. Directors Royalty and Owens do not represent
a majority; therefore, legal fees that they created on their own with the CSD counsel should not be
paid by the CSD district. As Calvin Owens (pictured on right) wrote in a March 5, 2013
describing what he had learned at his CSD training on January 22, 2013, "Directors are personally
liable for their own acts or omissions and the District is liable for the Board's actions."
The Community Alliance's CPRA request for specific records as to what
legal grounds were used by President Royalty to remove the agenda item for his buddy, Calvin
Owens, have now been twice denied by the CSD's General Manager and Custodian of Records, Paulette
Marshall, who is now conspiring with the two board members by restricting the public's timely
access to the related documents.
Marshall's faulty excuse for withholding the records is a general blanket
claim that the document(s) came from counsel; and are therefore (somewhow) restricted confidential
The public's right to meeting records under the law must be
liberally construed. Disclosure of the requested documents far outweigh any given
circumstance for the documents retention. There is no issue of any possible individual's
privacy or harm to the CSD being involved.
The opinion of the CSD's counsel is believed to be directed to the
CSD body and is strictly an opinion of CSD meeting procedure. It would not involve
anything that legitimately could be considered confidential and privileged under the California
Public Records Act or other state law. The counsel's communication on meeting procedure would
not involve any matter that by law must be restricted from public view; such as preliminary drafts,
personnel or medical data, trade secrets, litigation, utility records, real estate appraisals,
confidential documents from other agencies, or by their nature, highly private information.
Possibly, the only time that Marshall's claim would stick is if CSD
counsel was confidentially advising Royalty and/or Owens on an attorney-client personal
issue; then Marshall's claim would probably have merit. However, with that scenario, Royalty
and/or Owens would be illegally misappropriating the Newberry CSD's treasury resources for their own
private gain with billing directed to the CSD. And there might also be a conflict-of-interest
established between the attorney relationship with the CSD, and the attorney's separate relationship
with the director clients.
It is time that those associated with the Newberry CSD understand that
they are representing the citizens of Newberry Springs. That they and counsel are
being employed by the citizens and that they are the instruments of the people. Not the
other way around.
The California state Constitution and laws are clear, the public
has a right to open meetings to oversee that their elected representatives are justly
performing their duties. Secret dealings and secret communications directly impacting
the board meetings are not part of that equation. The reasoning behind the unilaterial
removal of an agenda item by an opposing chairman, who appeared grouchy over it, must be legally
substantiated; especially when criminal activity is alleged.
In conspiring to hide the requested information, the Newberry CSD is
currently in breach of the state Constitution, the California Public Records Act, and the state's
open meetings Brown Act.
The CSD after decades of operation continues to be dysfunctional and
non-responsive to the people. Some local citizens have declared it time for the CSD to