By Miriam Raftery
August 22, 2012 (San Diego)—Some people just don’t learn. Back in January, San Diego Supervisors got sued for hiding information from the public about a developer-backed scheme to eliminate community planning groups. The Board backed down to avoid a trial, vacated votes and held a hearing with proper public notice and open—though heated--public testimony.
Now history has repeated itself. San Diegans for Open Government has filed a lawsuit alleging that Supervisors once more violated the Ralph M. Brown Act. According to the suit, this time the County failed to post an agenda for Supevisors' June 26, 2012 agenda on the County website for the 72-hours required by state law. Supevisors further failed to postpone the meeting, took action on agenda items and refused to allow members of the public to address Supervisors on a key agenda item.
Supervisors were notified in writing on June 25 of the lack of posted agenda materials, but held the meeting anyway and took action on each item, including budget changes proposed by the chief administrative officer and by Supervisor Ron Roberts that were not disclosed to the public prior to a June 20 deadline for written public testimony. Nor where changes to Community Enhancement Program grants disclosed in a timely manner.
The public was “unaware of the items to be discussed” states the lawsuit, which contends the public has been harmed. The suit seeks injunctive relief to prohibit further action or expenditure of public funds on the items acted upon and further seeks to rescind all actions taken at the June 26 meeting.
Ironically, back in April when Supervisors decided to spare community planning groups, Supervisor Bill Horn tried to take away indemnification of volunteer community planners, railing about fears that they might violate the Brown Act and cost the County money. (Never mind that the average legal cost for planning and sponsor group members has averaged just $16.37 over the past 12 years, according to activist/freelance writer Patsy Fritz, who obtained the information through a public records search.)
Perhaps the Supervisors should take that refresher course on the Brown Act that they wanted community planners to attend. It’s clear that lawsuits over Brown Act Violations are being triggered not by volunteers serving on backcountry boards, but by Supervisors who remain unclear on the concept of obeying open government laws.