Wednesday, April 16, 2014

County counsel denies Brown Act violation

From page A10 | December 07, 2012 | 9 Comments

County Counsel Lou Green wrote the response quoted below to questions regarding action taken at Tuesday’s El Dorado County Board of Supervisors meeting. In a written statement county Auditor-Controller Joe Harn challenged a board decision to increase the salaries of Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Kim Kerr and Health and Human Services Director Daniel Nielson.

Harn expressed concern that the salary increases were not identified as a separate item on the board’s agenda and therefore the decision may have represented a violation of the open meeting law known as the Brown Act. The recommendation for the two raises was related to and part of a larger board decision that approved creation of a new Community Development Agency.

County Counsel’s opinion follows:

Joe’s complaint seems to be that the adjustment of the ACAO and HHS Director’s salaries weren’t specifically listed on the agenda as actions to be taken. While I understand his point — that somebody just reading the agenda wouldn’t know those actions were included, I don’t think that amounts to a Brown Act violation. The Brown Act says the agenda must include “a brief general description of each item of business to be transacted or discussed at the meeting, . . . A brief general description of the item generally need not exceed 20 words.” (Government Code section 54954.2.)

The idea is to give a brief general description of the item so that if the person is interested they can inquire further and learn more. Sometimes we go way beyond this and list every constituent element of the action to be taken. Other times we don’t, like this situation. In this case, we merely said ,”Chief Administrative Office recommending the board consider the creation of a consolidated Community Development Agency by combining the Development Services Department, Environmental Management Department and the Department of Transportation and take any necessary action regarding same.”

I think this is enough to satisfy the Brown Act. It gives a general description of the action to be taken and specifically states that additional actions may be taken. It allows a person who is interested to inquire further. It doesn’t list any of the specific acts to be taken (e.g. adjusting salaries for the assistant directors, establishing job specs for those positions) either.

I do understand Joe’s point since salaries are sensitive issues, especially of highly placed personnel in the organization. He might want to talk to CAO Terri Daly about being more specific on the agenda.  But, I don’t think it rises to the level of a Brown Act violation.


Discussion | 9 comments

  • Dink LaneDecember 06, 2012 - 12:54 pm

    Don't you just love it.... Raises for the top-earners in the county (In SECRET no less) and turning around and tell the residents.... Waaa We can't afford to fix roads or process your paperwork....

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  • EvelynDecember 06, 2012 - 12:59 pm

    Ah . . . Dink, but the County met the 20 word minimum requirement. So why complain?

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  • EvelynDecember 06, 2012 - 12:59 pm

    P.S. Qualified Czars are expensive.

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  • 1036-FrankDecember 07, 2012 - 8:13 am

    There is also that little thing called a Grand Jury Report from Amador County that seems to have been overlooked by the stooges who were supposed to conduct background employment checks prior to hiring, now we have secret back-room raises not on the printed agenda at the BOS, looks like the county is returning to some old ways of incompetency, where is the local Grand Jury? Are they still being told what to look into and what to keep quiet?

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  • James SmithDecember 07, 2012 - 8:38 am

    The Grand Jury will never investigate because Briggs brotherinlaw is the head of the Grand Jury.

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  • Echo ChamberDecember 07, 2012 - 9:13 am

    holey moley, Mr Smith ... everything leads to everything else in EDC

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  • James SmithDecember 07, 2012 - 9:42 am

    Here's the response to the Amador Grand Jury about Kim Kerr:

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  • MelodyDecember 07, 2012 - 8:49 pm

    Joe Harn was right on target with his comments. The Mtn. Demo and Lou Green are obviously biased. Lots of BOS hanky-panky going on under the direction of County Counsel. Note the video was posted, but not the minutes, likely because of the controversial subject matter. These public comments & documents SHOULD appear as attachments to Open Forum when they are finally posted to the BOS website: "My purpose this morning is to address Brown Act violations, particularly the censoring of the October 23rd Item #17 relevant to the Assistant CAO, DOT and Development Services materials that were formally submitted to the Clerk of the Board and posted to the BOS Agenda for the public record. You’ll recall that was the meeting when Jack Sweeney seized the opportunity to threaten me, “Melody, you need to relinquish that or we’re going to have to call an officer to get you out of here. You’re done. The rules say you’re done. Now be polite and go sit down. If somebody wants to answer you, they will. In the meantime other people need to have a chance to speak.” Ron Briggs then leaned over to Chairman John Knight commenting to just adjourn the meeting. Without a second motion, Jack announced the meeting adjourned and everyone exited the room. It appeared you all thought it was pretty hilarious. For the record, I was well within my Constitutional rights and appropriate time limits. It was the Board that was out of order in their arrogant display of tyranny. The submitted materials included incriminating information that citizens have the right to know about their public servants. That correspondence has since been removed from both the agenda and the minutes on the BOS website. Those items are also relevant to Item #43 of today’s Agenda. As a reminder, you are accountable to the citizens of this county and are hereby put on notice. I’m confident County Counsel is well aware of the potential for litigation. Madam Clerk: Please ensure these materials are properly posted for the public record along with the other documents that were submitted for item #17 of the October 23rd Agenda. Do you have any questions or comments at this time?" (**The previously submitted items have since been reposted to the 10/23 Agenda on the BOS website)

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  • Fran DuchampAugust 20, 2013 - 7:52 pm

    Many of the new advisory groups starting up--announce they are not going to concern themselves with the brown act...ask sometime...Are we observing the brown act? First people stare you--then they"NO"..this is just informal. Going down memory lane.

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