Brown Act

ATTORNEY CORY BRIGGS REPRESENTS EAST COUNTY MAGAZINE IN ACTION AGAINST CAJON VALLEY SCHOOL BOARD

“Based on your agency’s history of deleting audio recordings of board meetings, it has become necessary for reporters to record the meetings because your agency cannot be trusted to carry out this basic governance function.Now that all board members are on notice of the fact that the public must perform this function, any member’s participation in a meeting at which the public has been thwarted in its efforts to make a recording will subject the member to criminal prosecution.” – Attorney Cory Briggs, in a letter to the CVUSD.

By Miriam Raftery

Photo:  ECM's recording device, a cell-phone sized recorder on a small tripod next to the front left seat, is clearly not obstructive or disruptive at the May 7 board workshop.

May 17, 2019 (El Cajon) – “Despite lawfully occupying open seats in the front  row, reporters have been threatened with arrest, removal, or both if they did not move to the back of the room,” states a letter sent by Attorney Cory Briggs of Briggs Law Corporation to Cajon Valley Union School District yesterday on behalf of East County Magazine. His letter makes clear that such conduct is “flatly illegal.”

On May 7, Ryan Love, safety and security officer for the district, ordered ECM contributing editor Paul Kruze and editor Miriam Raftery to move to the back, where we explained that audio recordings would not turn out due to noise from an air conditioner and the audience. We refused to comply with this illegal request. 

On May 14, Love again demanded that Kruze move from the front row to the back, and Kruze again refused. Kruze says he was told that an El Cajon Police officer would be called to arrest him.

CAJON VALLEY SCHOOL BOARD AMENDS POLICY ON ACCESS TO RECORDINGS OF PUBLIC MEETINGS—AFTER LEGAL DEMAND ON ECM’S BEHALF

CalAware warns district after CVUSD destroys requested school board meeting recordings

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

Updated with CVUSD letter to CalAware)

March 28, 2019  (El Cajon) -- The Cajon Valley Union School District Board of Trustees voted 3-2 on Tuesday to change its policy on board meeting audio recordings. The action came after the district received a legal warning letter from Californians Aware (CalAware) regarding the district’s destruction of recordings from the Dec. and Nov. public meetings requested in a California Public Records Act request by East County Magazine in December.

Instead of destroying audio of board meetings after 30 days, the district will now keep them for one year and will make them available to the public on request on compact disc (CD). The measure, spearheaded by board trustee Jill Barto, was affirmed by Barto along with trustees Karen Clark-Meija and Jim Miller. Cajon Valley Union School District (CVUSD) trustees President Tamara Otero and Jo Alegria voted “no” on the new policy.

The letter addressed to Otero accused the CVUSD of violating multiple sections of the California Government Code relating to its refusal to permit inspection and copying of audiotape recordings made by the District of open and public meetings. The government act violated is more commonly known as the “Ralph M. Brown Act” which legally obligates government agencies and bodies to abide by specific rules regarding open meetings and access to public documents.

Audio: 

KALASHO THREATENS LAWSUIT OVER EL CAJON’S PROPOSAL TO LIMIT NUMBER OF ITEMS A COUNCIL MEMBER CAN ADD TO AGENDA

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

View video:  This agenda item can be viewed from 1:06:16 through 1:57:45

March 17, 2017 (El Cajon) – El Cajon’s City Council spent a full hour Tuesday debating a proposal by Mayor Bill Wells that aims to save Council time and staff resources by limiting how many items a Council member could place on an agenda single-handedly to just one per quarter, a maximum of four a year.  To bring forth any additional item, a Council member would have to gain support of one additional member. 

But that raises potential Brown Act violations andconcerns over suppressing citizen’s representation, the American CIvil Liberties Union (ACLU) warns in a letter sent to the City's attorney, Mayor and  Council members..

Newly elected Councilman Ben Kalasho strenuously objected to the proposal, leading to a testy exchange in which he threatened to sue Wells and fellow Council members to protect what he views as his right to represent his constituents.  Several members of the public also spoke out,  all opposed to sttifling their representatives’ ability to put items of concern on the agenda.

READER'S EDITORIAL: A DECISION IN YOUR FAVOR

 

Court rules that CA Public Records Act applies to public officials’ private e-mail accounts

By Lou Russo

March 24, 2013 (Alpine)--In a Superior Court in California on March 19, 2013, a decision was filed which should make every Californian happy. The Honorable James P. Kleinberg decided that you, a citizen of California, have the right to view the records of public servants concerning the public’s business, in any form, regardless of where they are stored. Let me quote from the decision:

“[It is] unlikely the Legislature intended to render documents confidential based on their location, rather than their content.”

BROWN ACT IS BACK IN FORCE: OPEN GOVERNMENT REQUIREMENTS RESTORED

By Miriam Raftery

December 8, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)—The public’s right to know what’s on the agenda for local government boards is now fully restored--thanks to a provision tucked within the fine print of Proposition 30, the tax measure to aid schools passed by voters in November.  

Back in July, the cash-strapped California Legislature suspended a section of the Brown Act that required local government boards to post agendas at least 72 hours before a meeting.  Because the law required the state to reimburse local governments for such costs, the state simply eliminated citizens’ right to know what actions government bodies had scheduled.

“Since the election, the Brown Act mandate is fully back in force and agencies can no longer claim reimbursement for mandated costs.  That's a side effect of the passage of Prop 30,” Terry Francke, general counsel at Californians Aware (CALAWARE) told ECM.

COUNTY REVERSES COURSE, SAYS IT NO LONGER HAS TO FOLLOW BROWN ACT OPEN GOVERNMENT REQUIREMENTS

By Miriam Raftery

September 23, 2012 (San Diego)—Back in July, the state suspended the Ralph M. Brown Act.  As a result, cash-strapped cities and counties no longer have to provide agendas to the public prior to meetings--opening the door for a return to backroom actions without public scrutiny.  On July 24, Supervisors affirmed that they intended to continue following the Brown Act anyhow. 

But just two weeks later, Supervisors announced resignation of Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard—and named a replacement in the same meeting, with zero public notice. San Diegans for Open Government, which has sued the County for prior Brown Act violations,  sent a cure and correct letter to the County on August 14.

The County’s response?  County Counsel Ellen Pilsecker fired back a letter stating that there’s “no legal basis” for a lawsuit because the Brown Act “no longer exists.”  Clearly, voters can no longer count on open government in San Diego County--a fact confirmed by other recent troubling actions by Supervisors. 

SUPERVISORS' CLOSED-DOOR VOTE TO PICK NEW CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER DRAWS NEW BROWN ACT VIOLATION ALLEGATIONS

 

By Miriam Raftery

August 24, 2012 (San Diego) – Last week, San Diegans for Open Government sued San Diego’s Supervisors for apparent Brown Act violations at a June 26 meeting. 

CALAWARE LAUNCHES PETITION TO PROTECT OPEN GOVERNMENT, BROWN ACT REQUIREMENTS

 

 

July 25, 2012 (Sacramento) – As ECM has reported, the state has suspended Brown Act provisions  that previously required public boards to notify the public about agenda items at least 72 hours before meetings. 

Now Californians Aware, a watchdog group that protects citizens’ right to open government, has created an online petition with Change.org to “Free the Brown Act from Budget Suspense.” You can urge Assembly speaker to support a constitutional amendment that would restore open government rights for the people by signing the petition here.

EDITORIAL: DON’T LET GOVERNMENT GROUPS HIDE THEIR AGENDAS

Take these steps to restore Brown Act protections at state and local levels

By Miriam Raftery, Editor, East County Magazine

July 18, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – Criticism is mounting over the state’s suspension of Brown Act protections, which have long required local government boards to provide at least 72 hours public notice of meeting agendas.

MCFETRIDGE SAYS SUPERVISORS ARE PLAYING THE PLANNING GROUPS FOR APRIL FOOLS

 

By E.A. Barrera 
 
April 4, 2012 (San Diego)--Under California state law, planning and sponsor groups of San Diego County's unincorporated areas are considered elected agencies subject to all the laws governing open debate and process. They have largely been a part of San Diego's planning process since 1968, but they are creatures of any county's Board of Supervisors, and exist at the Supervisors' discretion.

 

WATCHDOG GROUP CALAWARE SENDS WARNING TO LOCAL GOVERNMENTS; THREATENS LAWSUITS TO ASSURE BROWN ACT `STRICT ENFORCEMENT’’

 

By Miriam Raftery

December 4, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) – Californians Aware (CalAware), the nonprofit center for public forum rights, has advised state associations representing most local government agencies that their members may be subject to short notice lawsuits for common violations of California’s open meeting law, the Brown Act.