OPEN MEETINGS -- Richard McKee, president emeritus of Californians Aware, says the West Covina School District has violated state open-government laws several times, and in
a letter addressed to Superintendent Liliam Leis-Castillo and the
district's school board members, has accused the
district of failing to provide accurate, specific information on
agendas, reports Maritza Velazquez in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
Leis-Castillo said the district will seek more details about the alleged violations listed in the complaint.
"It's one of those things that our legal counsel is looking at," she said Thursday.
The district will respond within the next two weeks, she said.
McKee accused the district of violating the Ralph M. Brown Act, a series of laws that mandate government transparency.
his letter, McKee accuses the district of failing to say where board
meetings are held, failing to convene in open session prior to closed
session and not reporting action taken in closed session.
McKee also criticized the district for putting vague
information about personnel matters on every meeting agenda but never
reporting what action was proposed or taken.
"This is the first step in what could be a Brown Act lawsuit against the board," McKee said.
McKee sent the letter on his own behalf, and wrote the following.
October 28, 2009
Board of Education
West Covina Unified School District, 1717 W. Merced Avenue
West Covina, CA 91790
Subject: Brown Act Demand for Correction, pursuant to Government Code § 54950 et seq.
Dear Board of Education:
I have reviewed all 2009 agendas, minutes, and audios (mp3) of Board of Education meetings as posted by the District (http://www.wcusd-ca.schoolloop.com/cms/page_view?d=x&piid=&vpid=1225168865392). This review of the last 10 months, covering 17 meetings, reveals numerous and repeated Brown Act violations. In addition I visited last nights Board meeting and confirmed these ongoing violations.
As illustrated by its own records, throughout its past 17 regular meetings, the Board of Education repeatedly:
1. Violates § 54954.2 by posting agendas that do not specify the location of the regular meeting;
2. Violates § 54954.3 by posting agendas that do not provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the Board on closed session items prior to holding those closed sessions;
3. Violates §§ 54957.7 & 54956.9 by failing to convene in open session prior to closed session andfailing to make the announcements required thereby;
4. Violates §§ 54956.9 & 54954.5 by failing to properly agendize pending litigation closed sessions;
5. Violates §§ 54957, 54954.5 & 54957.1 by including a closed session on every regular meeting agenda identified only as Personnel/Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release, but never reporting any action taken on this item with the vote of each member;
6. Violates §§ 54956.9 & 54957.1 by failing to announce the vote of each member on action taken to settle pending litigation.
Additionally, I was deeply offended by the Christian prayer offered by Board members at the beginning of every one of these 17 meetings; the majority invoking the name of Jesus Christ. This practice violates the First Amendment.
Corrections Demanded: Within the 15-day period following the Districts receipt of this Demand, the Board/District shall:
Publicly acknowledge each and all of the violations identified above;
Issue newly-approved policies created to avoid these violations in the future.
Should the Board fail to properly perform any portion of the corrections demanded, it will be assumed the Board and District intend to continue these identified violations of the Brown Act and the First Amendment in the future.
Most respectfully submitted for your action as required by law,
Richard P. McKee
In the same period, McKee came to an amicable settlement avoiding litigation with the city attorney of Patterson after challenging that attorney's justification of the denial of comment rights to the public before a matter was taken into closed session.