By Anne Lowe
OPEN MEETINGS -- An officer of Californians Aware has demanded an end to
board members gathering for unannounced briefings prior to official meetings in the Chula Vista Elementary
Last week, a Watchdog column report in the San
Diego Union Tribune detailed the practice of board members gathering for
question-and-answer sessions in the district superintendents office before convening in official meetings. Board Vice President Larry Cunningham said the meetings have
been ongoing for at least 16 years and no one has ever raised a concern.
Richard McKee, vice president of open government compliance
for Californians Aware, sent
a letter Sunday to board members requesting an immediate end to the
pre-meeting sessions. In the letter, McKee asks board members to acknowledge
that Brown Act violations have occurred and to take immediate steps to correct
them by September 17.
If the board
members do not respond by the designated time, McKee says in the letter that
it will be assumed the Board intends to continue the practices listed above as
it has in the past in violation of the Brown Act.
The letter quotes a 1968 state Court of Appeal
decision in the case of Sacramento Newspaper Guild v. Sacramento County Board
of Supervisors: An informal conference or caucus permits crystallization of
secret decisions to a point just short of ceremonial acceptance. There is
rarely any purpose to a nonpublic premeeting conference except to conduct some
part of the decisional process behind closed doors.
The Watchdog reviewed two years of school board
meeting minutes and found that, on 129 of the last 130 motions, the vote was
The original report in the Union Tribune also revealed that $2,035 has
been billed to the districts general fund to supply food for the
question-and-answer sessions since 2008.