Missing the point

Michael Raffety

Aug. 1, 2014

July 18 we stated unequivocably that the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors violated the Brown Act. At issue was a My Turn column by all four members of the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors printed July 2.

The violation came because there was no agenda item for the board members to approve the 864-word piece.

With no agenda item, the four supervisors had to have approved the opinion piece behind closed doors or by a serial meeting facilitated by an intermediary.

The Local Government Open Meeting Law, also known as the Brown Act, specifically states “… any use of direct communication, personal intermediaries or technological devices that is employed by a majority of the members of the legislative body to develop a collective concurrence as to action to be taken on an item by members of the legislative body is prohibited.”

The operative word is “prohibited.”

The county counsel’s response July 22 was, gosh, it all was part of a closed session evaluation of the chief administrative officer and what a swell job she’s doing.

That’s not even a bunt. It’s a swing and a miss.

County Counsel Ed Knapp, according to our reporter, said, “The board, in that closed session, prepared a letter, later given to the press, who later ran such as an op-ed piece.”

We are not asserting that the board can’t evaluate its CAO in a closed session and have nothing to report, assuming no raise was given or contract amended.

But it strains credulity that four supervisors would write a coherent opinion piece, type it and forward it to the Mountain Democrat while evaluating the CAO.

That’s not even a pitch. It’s a balk.

The county counsel further said, “County Counsel did not believe there was a reportable action, however, because the press has inquired, the county counsel reported the letter was authorized by the Board of Supervisors.”

Well, duh.

We figured the board approved it, since all four of their names were affixed to the opinion piece. Now it is clearly stated that the four supervisors acted in closed session to approve the opinion piece. To affix their names to it, to claim it as their own four combined thoughts they would have had to approve it. Whether it was an actual formal vote, a general consensus, some winks and nods or exclamation about what great writing this was, it all adds up to a vote to 1. approve the opinion piece, and 2. approve sending it to the Mountain Democrat. That is separate and distinct from evaluating the CAO, though that evaluation was made public by the July 2 opinion piece.

The county counsel missed the point. Again, we call on the district attorney to investigate this, find out who the intermediary is, who really authored this and send a formal letter to the board to take corrective action for this “unlawful action by the legislative body.”

FYI to the county counsel: Corrective action means agendizing this and taking a vote in open session.


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