Mon. May 27th, 2024

By Donna Westfall – February 18, 2017 – Let’s talk Last Chance Grade again.  Talk, talk, talk, talk, yak yak yak……… that’ s what you hear from Supervisor’s Cowan, Howard and Hemmingsen.   All talk and no action.

And then there’s Editor Fornoff from a local newspaper who needs a lesson on the Brown Act because you see, the Ralph M. Brown Act passed in 1953 was to prevent “secret meetings, informal meetings, workshops and undisclosed meetings by local elected  officials” and things done without public scrutiny.

The infamous “Valentines Day” Board of Supervisors meeting was a public meeting.  It was announced in advance. Both Hemmingsen and Cowan asked to see THE PLAN in the previous BOS meeting. Then, when Sups Gitlin and Berkowitz brought it up as an emergency item, they (Hemmingsen and Cowan) both voted TO WAIT!

An emergency to one is clearly not an emergency to another.  In 40 years the grade hasn’t slipped into the ocean, let’s wait and see how much longer it will last. Are they serious? You betcha!

Ya just can’t talk outta both sides of your mouth at once.  Either it is a problem and you make it an emergency or it isn’t a problem and you have time to sit back and relax. Every once in a while things like this just bring out the snarky remarks I don’t normally think of.  Hard to hide my disappointment with Cowan.  I really thought she was going to be a horse of a different color.

The agenda was supposed to have Last Chance Grade on there, but Chair Chris Howard decided not to do so since he was going to be in Japan and whaaaaa, whaaaa, he wanted to be around for the discussion.  Like life stops if Chair Howard can’t partake in a discussion. The public has to right to ask Chair Howard why he didn’t put it on the Valentines Day agenda.  FYI, half the time I ask him a question he has no opinion anyways. The other half when I ask for things to be put on the agenda, I generally am disappointed because he doesn’t… want an example? Term Limits for one.  Free fishing for another.  I’ll be sure to bring them up one more time this coming Tuesday.

I called and spoke with my Supervisor 1st District, Roger Gitlin and asked him if life stopped when he missed any BOS meetings. ” In the four years I have served on the BOS, I may have missed three meetings. Did the Board ever consider postponing a discussion on any item  because I was unable to be at that meeting. No, they did not. Big double standard. Also, I remind your readers of Del Norte County Administrative Manual 1.10.010(b) that ANY supervisor may place an item on the Agenda after consulting with the Chairman.  It seems to me there are a lot of exceptions to this Administrative rule.”

OK, so here was a public meeting under public scrutiny.  Berkowitz was all ready to read and disclose THE PLAN.

Then things came to a screeching halt. Call the wambulance.  We can’t possibly discuss this, huff, huff and puff because, because Chair Howard is not here and it’s not on the agenda. BROWN ACT VIOLATION.  No it’s not.

Let’s turn our attention to The First Amendment Coalition: A knowing violation of the Brown Act with the intent to deprive the public of information to which it is entitled is a crime. However, no one has ever been successfully prosecuted for a violation of the Brown Act. Oh is that a fact?  Yes it is.  No one has ever been successfully prosecuted for a violation of the Brown Act since 1953. The Brown Act actually is not and has not been enforced by the State in many years. Del Norte County did vote to follow the “spirit of the Brown Act.” Presently, the Brown Act is unenforceable.  Bet Fornoff didn’t know that either.


Editor Fornoff of the Triplicate likes to pride himself on being a watchdog.  Here’s an exception: where was this “watchdog” when former supervisor McClure was and is still being held accountable and subject to huge fines for her “conflicted” role while she served on the California Coastal Commission.  Oops! Fornoff must have been asleep at the wheel for that one.  Some “watchdog”.  He may be some kind of a “dog”, maybe a “junkyard dog”.

Let’s now turn our attention to the County’s legal counsel, Elizabeth “Liz” Cable for whom I have a great deal of respect. She actually answers questions in a timely manner in contrast to her predecessor, Gretchen Stuhr.

What did she say and what didn’t she say?

She NEVER said, I advise you not to place this item on the Agenda. Matter of fact she underscored, it is a Board decision to add an exigent ( emergency) item. Counsel did advise them that if they moved forward in this discussion, it could be subject to a challenge. At the very least, the discussion could have been started, then tabled for further discussion and contemplative action on the 28th of February, the next BOS meeting.




4 thoughts on “Triplicate gets it wrong AGAIN!”
  1. The meeting held on February 21, 2017 was highly contentious….I was impressed by the homework that Supervisor Cowan had conducted…and she was right to state there was no plan offered by the Plan Man supervisor Berkowitz…but…I think what Berkowitz was trying to get established is he wanted to get all counties involved and talking about a comment by President Trump to take One Trillion dollars to improve our infrastructure and roads….Remember Trump made that statement it has not been enacted by anyone….There lies Mr. Berkowitz credibility…he takes a statement, and gets people excited by a mere thought, when in reality there is no substance…..A lot should be said by Mayor Inscore who Boldly stood up to the Podium, looked Berkowitz in the eye and called Berkowitz bluff on his “plan”. ” There is no Trillion dollars in which counties can receive the money you speak of, said Inscore, ” My Constituents have been calling me since I have returned from Japan. Your getting people’s hopes up when none of it is true.”
    …in the meantime Chair Howard was trying to save face for Berkowitz by politely discounting his performance as just his inexperience.

    The statements in this article piece that said the following, “THE BROWN ACT ACTUALLY IS NOT AND HAS NOT BEEN ENFORCED BY THE STATE IN MANY YEARS.” uh…that is questionable….

    it is common knowledge if a writing is distributed less than 72 hours before a regular meeting of the legislative body, and it is a public record that relates to an agenda item for an open session, the writing must be made available for public inspection at a location specified in the agenda at the time the writing is distributed to all, or a majority of all, of the members of the body. Govt C §54957.5(b). If the agency distributes material prepared by it or a member of the legislative body during a meeting, copies of the materials must be available for public inspection at the meeting. Govt C §54957.5(c).

    No action, however, can be taken on any item that is not on the agenda.

    Special procedures permit a body to proceed without an agenda 54954.2(b) Ch. IV in the case of emergency circumstances, or where a need for immediate action came to the attention of the body after posting of the agenda.

    When a majority of the legislative body determines that an emergency situation exists, it may call an emergency meeting. (§ 54956.5.) The Act defines an emergency as a crippling activity, work stoppage or other activity which severely impairs public health, safety or both. (§ 54956.5(a)(1).) Absent a dire emergency, telephonic notice must be provided to all media outlets that have requested that they receive notice of any special meetings called pursuant to section 54956 at least one hour prior to the meeting. (§ 54956.5(b).) In the case of a dire emergency, notice need only be provided at or near the time that notice is provided to the members of the body. (§ 54956.5(b).) dire emergency is a crippling disaster, mass destruction, terrorist act, or threatened terrorist activity that poses peril so immediate and significant that requiring a legislative body to provide one-hour notice before holding an emergency meeting may endanger the public health, safety, or both, as determined by a majority of the members of the legislative body. (§ 54956.5(a)(2).)

    REWIND…emergency is mass destruction, a crippling disaster, PUblic Safety etc…not someone who feels we need to act on a comment made by the President of the United States. Although we have a strong potential for a safety issue, currently the road is daily utilized in a regular manner….

    The article states no cases have been heard since 1953, well, Fact Check…go to library Lexis Nexus punch in Ralph Act, prosecution, violations, and watch how many cases pop up….

    Lastly, Elizabeth Cable was letting the Board know (feb. 14, 2017) in a professional manner that their decision making would be subject to challenge…meaning challenge of the Brown Act….professional courtesy without throwing Gitlin and Berkowitz completely under the bus….

    In essence, here are some facts. Bob Berkowitz candidate platform stated the following:

    I will build the LCG in 5 years. Then on social media prior to the election it was 7- 10 years. The last few weeks he has informed the public of this plan. However, his credibility was diffused when Blake Inscore conducted research on a statement made by President Trump, but passionately laid everything true and correct in open forum on the table, and when Supervisor Cowan conducted eye opening and believable research.

    I believe Gitlin and Berkowitz can do Great things if they will stop thumping their chest to try and prove they are the alpha dogs and begin working with the other three supervisors.

  2. Jesse, thanks for your interest in the plan. I was prevented from presenting the plan because it had not been agendized. You are right. We needed a majority vote even before I could read the plan or even give it as a handout. If I had gotten the three votes, then I could have had it discussed and voted on right then. The plan is on the agenda for this Tuesday at 11 am. I hope you can be there to support us.

  3. I watched the meeting and it seems like Bob had time and opportunity to hand copies of THE PLAN to his colleagues and read it aloud to the public regardless of any vote. Why did this not happen? Does a supe need a motion passed just to share the details of an idea with the board at a public meeting? It almost looked like a misunderstanding of intentions and rules.

  4. I don’t subscribe to the The Triplicate so when a few constitutents called me to tell me about the latest editorial targeting Supervisors Gitlin and Berkowitz, I invested four quarters to read the op/ed from Triplicate editor Robin Fornoff on both of us “skirting the law ”
    Not unlike past opinion pieces like the Saturday before the November election of Voter Slates, Mr. Fornoff has it wrong, AGAIN!

    The purpose of the the Ralph Brown Act of 1953 was to change the way our lawmakers conducted business, many times in private, far away from public scrutiny. That was hardly the case as both Supervisors Berkowitz and I attempted to raise the item to the public’s attention and the dire circumstances surrounding Last Chance Grade. Chairman Howard declined to place the item of the Great American Renewal Plan where every County in America would be apportioned a slice of the $1 Trillion infrastructure plan as promised by President Trump, during his first 100 days. I was a Boy Scout, so I was taught to BE PREPARED and I applaud Supervisor Berkowitz for wishing to discuss the matter on an exigent(emergency) basis. ALL THIS WAS DONE IN THE OPEN! What the editor should be asking is why Chairman Chris Howard declined to place the item on the Agenda initially, at least for purposes of discussion. Most certainly, the matter could have been tabled…No, that did not not happen. The two supervisors who asked in public, Supervisors Hemmingsen and Cowan,to see the Plan, declined to even hear about the Plan when given the opportunity; very telling…. It has been almost a half-century since Kurt Stremberg’s parents plunged to their deaths after Last Chance Grade collapsed in February, 1972. I guess one could say what’s another week or two until we find the solution. I am not sure what kind of watchdog edior Fornoff believes himself to be in what I can only term, the self-appointment of all things proper in Del Norte County. Tragic!

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