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A look back at 2008 MDUSD board Brown Act accusation

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, June 11th, 2012 at 12:09 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Now that the Mt. Diablo schools superintendent and some board members have asserted that they did not need to publicly present bond documents to the board at the April 23 meeting where trustees approved those documents, it is instructive to take a look back at another time the Brown Act was a hot topic of conversation on the board.

On Oct. 18, 2008, Trustees Gary Eberhart and Paul Strange (who is an attorney) accused the rest of the board of violating the Brown Act by failing to present backup documentation for a vote during the meeting.

Here’s my story about that meeting, from our archives:

“MT. DIABLO TRUSTEES CLAIM VIOLATION OF BROWN ACT

Published Friday, 10/24/2008
Section: News
Page Number: 4
Section Letter: A

By Theresa Harrington

CONCORD — Mt. Diablo school board members Gary Eberhart and Paul Strange accused fellow board members of violating the state’s open meeting law after a contentious Saturday morning vote about school air conditioning.

‘I abstain because I believe the board is committing a misdemeanor and violating the Brown Act, and I can’t be a part of that,’ Eberhart said. The board majority voted to spend $10.2 million to air condition four schools.

Strange also abstained, saying that the superintendent should have included an engineer’s report – which compared different air conditioning systems – in the meeting agenda packet, since trustees relied on that information for their deliberations. The Brown Act requires public agencies to provide materials distributed to board members to the public, unless the information is confidential.

Board members received the engineer’s four-page report and an attached table of estimated construction costs, along with a memo from the district’s director of maintenance and operations, in a packet of materials distributed to them by Superintendent Gary McHenry. But when the board discussed different air conditioning options Oct. 14, the agenda packet did not include the report.

At that time, Strange said that the board should delay voting until Oct. 18, so the report could be provided to the public. He and Eberhart were stunned to find that the report was not included in the Saturday packet.

Dick Nicoll, assistant superintendent for administrative services, said the report was provided to the Times and was available to anyone who requested it. However, Strange and Eberhart said the public should not have to call the district to ask if anything was left out of the packet.

Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, agrees.

‘There’s no excuse for not including it,’ he said.

To correct the mistake, Scheer said, the board should vote again, including the report in its agenda packet. If it does not, a contractor or anyone else could sue the district, alleging the vote was invalid, he said.”

Here is a link to the official minutes of that meeting: http://www.mdusd.k12.ca.us/mdusd/board_of_education/minutes/0809/10-18-08.pdf
The Brown Act discussion is under Item 4.1.

Similarly, Alicia Minyen says she thinks the board should vote over on the April 23 bond resolution. But, since it appears the bonds may have already been sold, it may be a moot point.

Eberhart’s insistence at the April 23 meeting that it wasn’t necessary to publicly present the bond documents is in stark contrast to his view of the Brown Act in 2008.

Do you believe the district has violated the Brown Act by failing to publicly present the bond documents at its April 23 meeting?

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