Wednesday, July 30, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Nutting, Briggs squabble over Brown Act

By
From page A1 | March 17, 2014 |

Tension between El Dorado County Supervisors Ray Nutting and Ron Briggs has simmered for much of the past year, but at the March 11 Board of Supervisors meeting, it nearly boiled over. A portion of the meeting had dealt with the Ralph M. Brown Act’s requirements regarding preparation of the board agenda — specifically the appropriate use of the consent calendar. The Act broadly describes and defines what may be included in an agenda and whether or not something can be changed during a governing board meeting compared to what may have to be postponed in order to give the public advance notice before the board takes action.

At issue were notations on four consent calendar items dealing with current agreements the county has with several private consulting firms. As agendized, each item included the following, “4/5 vote required.” All four were recommended to the board by the Community Development Agency, Long Range Planning Division, and in each case that division was recommending increasing the value of the contracts contingent upon future tasks as needed. Several members of the public requested that the board remove them from the consent calendar and put them on the “Department Matters” element of the agenda. All items on that part of the agenda must be openly discussed in public before supervisors may take any action on them.

After public comment, and shortly before supervisors prepared to vote on the items, Chief Administrative Officer Terri Daly clarified that the “4/5 vote required” notation was an error and that the board could approve or deny the recommended items by a simple majority — three votes. She explained that the former applied only if the county budget did not have adequate funds in those specific accounts to cover the increases requested by Long Range Planning staff. In such a case, first the board would have to vote 4/5 to amend the budget to accommodate the desired increase. Then supervisors could vote by majority to approve the requests.

“The 4/5 vote is not required because there is money in the budget to cover the (requested amounts),” Daly explained.

Moments later, Nutting asked County Counsel Ed Knapp if the board could act based on the new information, in effect, change what the board and public had understood the voting requirement to be — as published in the agenda — without postponing for several days to allow for public comment. Knapp indicated that altering the agenda for the purpose as stated would not represent a violation of the Brown Act. Not satisfied with or convinced by Knapp’s explanation, Nutting continued to declare his view that changing the agenda in such a way would violate the law, and he would oppose the action.

Briggs disagreed and there followed a brief period of the two “talking over” each other with their opposing views of the Brown Act. Board Chairman Norma Santiago had to raise her voice demanding that her colleagues return to a more civil level of discourse. Nutting changed the tone, “Briggs, and Knight and Sweeney” (went to lunch together all the time), Nutting charged as Santiago cut him off.  The inference was that Briggs and former supervisors John Knight and Jack Sweeney routinely violated the Brown Act by gathering together at the same time. Sweeney was a four-term District 3 supervisor whose last term ended in January 2013. Knight’s one-term in District 1 ended at the same time with the election of Ron Mikulaco.

Based on consultations with County Counsel, the Mountain Democrat determined well over a year ago that Nutting’s and earlier allegations by others should not be seen as violations of the Brown Act. No evidence or reporters provided any specific examples of the supervisors conducting county business during their lunches that would be considered improper or illegal  on their part. The Brown Act further contains relatively short deadlines and timelines within which complaints must be made in order for the appropriate officials to investigate or take action regarding such allegations.

One strict view of the Brown Act holds that any time a quorum of governing officials are talking to each other in the same place or at the same time, it violates the Brown Act. A broader interpretation notes that no violation occurs if they are not talking about nor taking action nor discussing taking action on anything within their official jurisdiction. If they are talking about attending an upcoming baseball game, for example, there is no violation.

Knapp and former County Counsel Lou Green have consistently explained to the Mountain Democrat that the latter is the accurate and valid interpretation of the Brown Act.

Knapp’s e-mailed discussion Wednesday was more specific to the meeting the day before:

“In some instances involving the situation where an applicant needs to give us more money and we need to amend the consultant contracts, like the five items yesterday, a budget amendment is necessary, and that’s why the initial thought was that a 4/5 vote was required.  However, when these 5 items were called and the requirement for four votes was questioned, the county budget officer looked at these specific items with a critical eye and determined that, in fact, no change to the budget was actually required, so the minimum vote requirement issue was corrected at the meeting.”

The Brown Act furthermore does not require the governing entity to “cite” in the agenda the number of votes needed to pass an item. Therefore, “Merely changing the gratuitous reference to the minimum number of votes required did not alter the ‘brief general description’ of the matter to be discussed and was therefore immaterial to the validity of the agenda as posted,” Knapp wrote.

Eventually the board voted 4-1 to approve the agenda items as recommended. Nutting voted “no.”

Comments

comments

.

News

District 2 candidate statements tell of goals

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1

 
Sand Fire nears containment: 66 structures destroyed

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Quarter-acre fire in Kelsey

By Rebecca Murphy | From Page: A3

Schedule for Highway 50 blasting closures

By News Release | From Page: A3

 
Tails wagging over dog park approval

By Julie Samrick | From Page: A3

.

Opinion

My Turn: Privatization of public services

By Mark Belden | From Page: A4

 
Policy book

By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4

 
.

Letters

District 2 supervisorial special election

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 4 Comments

 
GDPUD management report

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

Piano replaced

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
Comments sign-in policy

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

Save the Guinea Worm

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Large bangs

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

Private property gets no respect

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
.

Sports

Ex-Bruin lends a helping hand

By Steven Shaff | From Page: A8 | Gallery

 
Sierra Sharks finish middle of the pack

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A8

Roundup: July 29, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A8

 
Taz pull through for SSL trophy

By Patty Pope | From Page: A8

.

Prospecting

Nuns discover a pleasant place

By Lexi Boeger | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Bargains can be found everywhere

By Democrat Staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

At a glance: Game time

By Mimi Escabar | From Page: B2

 
Barbecue dinner to benefit Blue Star Moms

By Mount Aukum Winery | From Page: B2

Stagecoach story takes riders on a trip

By Wendy Schultz | From Page: B3

 
Help needed to make cool ties

By Sew 4 | From Page: B3

Stroke and osteoporosis screenings planned

By Life Line Screening | From Page: B3

 
Master Food Preservers: Tomato time

By Monique Wilber | From Page: B4

 
Gold Rush Days activities cancelled this year

By Sacramento Convention And Visitors Center | From Page: B4

Build an author platform at the Library

By El Dorado | From Page: B5

 
Sacramento area museums offer summer fun

By Sacramento Association Of Museums | From Page: B5

.

Essentials

Weather stats 7-29-14

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2

 
Building permits 6/2-6/2014

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2Comments are off for this post

Crime Log: July 17

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

 
.

Obituaries

Wallace Murrel Thomas

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
Merlyn Wilbur Adams

By Contributor | From Page: A2

.

Real Estate

.

Comics

.

Women’s Health

Love the skin you’re in

By Noel Stack | From Page: WH4

Dump stress and improve your health, productivity

By Wendy Schultz | From Page: WH7Comments are off for this post

Women’s Health Expo

By Marshall Medical | From Page: WH8

Find the confidence you need to fight back

By Special to the Democrat | From Page: WH12

Our choices directly affect our health

By Special to the Democrat | From Page: WH14

They’re NOT your mother’s hearing devices!

By Marshall Medical | From Page: WH17