By Donna Westfall – January 9, 2018 – Continuing the tradition that three supervisors run this town, and disregard the public, current Chairman, Chris Howard, was voted in to serve a second term. Nominating him was Sup. Lori Cowan, seconded by Sup. Gerry Hemmingsen. The fix was in. And some wonder if this was a violation of the Brown act?
Despite members of the public imploring THE THREE Supervisors that Supervisor 1st District, Roger Gitlin, was in line with the next most seniority to serve as the next Chairman. No one from the public spoke in support of having Sup. Howard continue in the Chair position for a second term.
The Ralph M. Brown Act was passed into law in 1953. It exists because too many politicians thought they could get away with things done in private, like collude to make public policy. Oftentimes, elected (and appointed) officials and agencies forget they they are there at the bidding of the public due to tax dollars paying their salary.
Let’s read over the first chapter and understand the legislature’s intent:
“In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards, and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.”
“The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”
Thereafter, no more than two supervisors can congregate so as to eliminate any possibility of collusion by three or more. But, with today’s technology, phone calls, emails and backroom meetings discussions and decisions are made and still take place because not everyone is honest or intends to uphold the Brown Act.
Here’s the problem with the Brown Act. How do you prove that three supervisors colluded? Do you want to make a federal case out of every incident where suspicion of collusion seems apparent?
Violations of the Brown Act can lead to invalidation of an agency’s action, payment of a challenger’s attorney’s fees, public embarrassment, even criminal prosecution. But the Brown Act is a floor, not a ceiling for conduct of public officials.
So, Chair Howard will continue to run the meetings…. poorly. Even public comment was disregarded in the morning’s meeting after the motion(s) were made for selecting a Chairman.
Chair Howard will continue to prepare the agenda….. and probably continue to disregard requests for agenda items based on his last year as Chairman.
While Jake Smith, former Supervisor Chuck Blackburn, Linda Sutter, Vici Dickey and others came to the mic to make clear their reasons why Roger Gitlin should be the next Chairman, they may as well could have banged their collective heads against the wall because THE THREE were not listening. (Video will be put up as soon as it is available.)
Both Gitlin and 5th District Supervisor, Bob Berkowitz made attempts to nominate and second each other to the position, enumerating the many accomplishments they’ve achieved in the course of public service.
If you want to know why things like Last Chance Grade never get handled in a timely manner, look no further. THE THREE have their agenda and hang the rest of us. Petty politics, personal animus, backstabbing, and disrespect will prevail for another year. Don’t expect anything to change because THE THREE don’t want change.