Conejo Valley School Board District Advisory Council accused of violating Open Meeting laws

ACTIVIST URGES PUBLIC TO ATTEND TUESDAY MORNING MEETING

By Cathy Carlson

Editor’s note: Why is this newsworthy? Because a concerned citizen was illegally denied her right to speak out about a huge ($197,000,000) proposed bond issue which she felt was wasteful– allegedly triggering multiple Brown Act violations and a cover-up, not to mention intimidation. She claims DA’s office issued a letter of reprimand and allowed 2 months to correct the violations. The attached District Attorney’s letter: ADA_Taylor_Waters_letter_re_Brown_Act_violations confirms most of Ms. Carlson’s grievances.  Ms. Carlson wants witnesses to hear and record relevant proceedings. Her latest letter to board:  September_9_DAC

CVUSDIt’s a workday but we need people to show up Tuesday September 9th 2014 at 1400 E Janss Rd (across from library, back building, Boardroom) Thousand Oaks at 9 am for the DAC (District Advisory Council)  meeting.  The DAC advises the Conejo Valley School District.  At their last meeting I was denied the right to speak.  They violated the California Brown Act open meetings law.  If the District Attorney’s office would press charges the penalty can be $1,000 and 6 months in jail.  After filing a compliant, not only for being denied the right to speak but other violations of the open meetings law, the D.A.’s office merely spanked the District Advisory Council and wrote a strict letter, requiring the DAC to have Brown Act training, fix their bylaws, rules, etc., and they must be welcoming to the public.

If you can make the Tuesday morning, 9am meeting, please come with cell phones, video cameras. Public Comments is near the beginning of the meetings, rather than 2 hours into the event. 

If the Chair follows tradition, he will ask everyone to sign in.  This is illegal, per the Brown Act.  Their sign-in sheet has never had the caveat at the top, explaining that it is optional and that if you chose you don’t have to put your name in writing.  Then the Chair will go around the room asking guests to identify themselves and what group they represent.  This is also illegal.  You can always answer, “Pass.”  If they push to find out who the visitors are this can be reported to the DA.

This may lead to a lawsuit and this meeting could be the last straw.  Pacific Justice Institute’s president Brad Dacus wants to go all the way with this matter. 

The District’s lawyers are scheduled to do Brown Act training at 9:45.  The board members were not told why.  I spoke to one conservative member this weekend (a former candidate for trustee seven years ago) who was shocked at the behavior of the Chair and Vice Chair.

So, please don’t bring any signs, nothing like buttons on campaigns or candidates are allowed. If you want to speak under general public comments, you should come before 9am and turn in a salmon colored speaker card.  Do not put your address or phone number on the card, to protect yourself.  It is NOT required under the Brown Act.

The approval of the subject minutes from the Board’s last meeting must be objected to, as written. In your own best interest, please recommend that the minutes remove any false reference to a non-existent “reopening” and “second adjournment”.   These minutes are a permanent record of a government standing committee. It is unethical and illegal to include “ex parte” comments.

DAC will be asked to approve the second draft (newly revised) of the minutes of May 13, 2014. Secret rules, hidden in Standing Rules, and referring to non-agendized items would not pertain to Public Comments anyway, since Public Comments was an agendized item, and listed as #5 that day. Also, there were no rules posted on the agenda found on the internet. And there were no instructions for the public at that May 2014 meeting. This is contrary to the spirit and letter of the Brown Act which requires Open Meetings to be welcoming of the public.

This is not how local government should function.

Relevant articles: http://www.toacorn.com/news/2014-08-14/Schools/No_community_meetings_planned_to_discuss_197M_bond.html

http://www.toacorn.com/news/2014-09-04/Editorials/School_district_not_receiving_high_marks_for_trans.html

Cathy Carlson is a retired Naval intelligence specialist and an educator, who has lived in 5 countries, taught in Uzbekistan and was a District staffer for Tom McClintock when he was our State Senator. She resides in Thousand Oaks.

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