OPEN MEETINGS -- The Santa Barbara County Association of
Governments is being accused of violating the Brown Act when it approved channeling money from a Highway 101
widening project toward construction of a suicide barrier on Cold
Springs Bridge, reports the Santa Ynez Valley Journal.


Marc McGinnes, a former lawyer
and a representative for Friends of the Bridge, a local group opposed to the
barrier, sent a letter to the county’s District Attorney’s office calling for
an investigation and then to take “appropriate civil and criminal actions to
address the violation.”

On June 18, SBCAG approved as a consent item — meaning
there was a consensus to approve without open discussion — a fund transfer between
three construction projects to close a shortfall for the $12.5 million Highway
101 Ellwood/Cathedral Oaks interchange project in Goleta.

*****

“The proposed funding trade would help ensure timely delivery of two projects supported by SBCAG — the Elwood/Cathedral Oaks interchange and the Cold Spring Bridge,” reads the staff report.

Though SBCAG provided a staff report on the proposal, it did not name or refer to these two projects in its consent calendar.

“Thus, stakeholders and other members of the public interested in participating in SBCAG decision-making concerning either or both the Cold Spring Bridge barriers and/or the Hwy 101 Milpas to Hot Springs Road widening project were deprived of notice of the proposed action(s) and the opportunity to be heard,” wrote McGinnes in a letter to the association.

As of press time, SBCAG Chairwoman Lupe Alvarez did not respond to several attempts to contact her for comment.

Kevin Redding, legal counsel for SBCAG, dismissed the accusation. He said because the item was primarily about funding the Ellwood/Hollister project, naming the other projects in the consent calendar was unnecessary. “This was not about the bridge,” he said, adding that the staff report, which details the proposal’s impact on the other projects, was posted on SBCAG’s bulletin board and on its Web site.

“That is laughable,” McGinnes responded, during an interview with the Journal. “And it’s not just laughable. What they did is illegal.”

“If you’re reading an agenda that doesn’t appear to pertain to anything you’re concerned about, why would you go online?” McGinnes said. “Carrying that argument to a logical conclusion, you’d have to say there’s a duty on the part of any citizen who’s interested in any topic to not only read the agenda item description but all the staff reports. No court would agree with that. They’re hoping that the court will agree with his characterization.”