By Miriam Raftery
April 2, 2019 (El Cajon) – Cajon Valley Union School District’s board president Tamara Otero has sent a formal response letter to Californians Aware (CalAware) agreeing to comply with demands in a legal cease and desist order that the watchdog organization had sent the district on East County Magazine’s behalf. The board’s April 30, 2019 meeting will include the compliance issue on the agenda, the letter added.
CalAware general counsel Terry Francke says of Otero’s letter, “This is a complete and properly worded acquiescence to our demands to cease and desist.”
CalAware’s letter had advised that the district was violating California’s open government law, the Ralph M. Brown Act, through the following past actions:
- Refusal to Permit Inspection and/or copying of audiotape recordings made by the District in open and public meetings of the Board of Education;
- Destruction of audiotape recordings made by the District of open within the 30-days retention period mandated by the Brown Act; and
- Preventing a trustee from asking questions of staff during a meeting concerning items on the agenda.
At its March 26 meeting, the board voted 3-2 to retain audio recordings for one year, instead of 30 days, and to make copies available on CDs upon request, as ECM reported. ECM contacted CalAware after the board destroyed audio recordings of two meetings requested by ECM, including one requested just one day after the meeting occurred. The board previously had a policy of refusing to provide copies or even to allow citizens or journalists to make their own copies of tapes at the district office,
The third CalAware demand item stems from a complaint made by trustee Jill Barto, who said she was denied her right to ask questions about agenda items unless two other board members approved the request. ECM had sought a tape of that meeting in part to confirm Barto’sclaim, but was unable to do so, since the district destroyed the recording, which Barto had also requested.
Otero’s letter to CalAware states, “In order to avoid unnecessary litigation and without admitting any violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act, the Cajon Valley Union School District hereby unconditionally commits that it will cease, desist from, and not repeat the challenged past action as described above. This issue will be placed on the open meeting Agenda as a separate item at the next meeting, for approval compliant with section 54960.2, subdivision. (c)(2). The next meeting is scheduled for April 30, 2019.”
The letter adds that the district may rescind this commitment only by a majority vote of members in an open meeting
The Cajon Valley Union School District may rescind this commitment only by a majority vote of its at a regular, noticed meeting “and noticed on its posted agenda as `Rescission of Brown Act Commiitment.”