By KAREN VELIE
The South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation Board agreed to correct violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act last week after receiving a notice of violation from the SLO County District Attorney’s Office.
The Ralph M. Brown Act requires legislative bodies to conduct their business within the boundaries of their jurisdiction. The sanitation district includes Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and the community of Oceano.
However, sanitation district officials planned a meeting to interview applicants for the district administrator position for April 7, at the Courtyard Marriott in San Luis Obispo.
Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill informed the district interim administrators and legal staff that holding the meeting outside the district boundaries violated the Brown Act. But the meeting remained scheduled in San Luis Obispo.
Hill boycotted the meeting citing the Brown Act violation.
On April 7, multiple members of the public, including activist Julie Tacker, asked the board to abide by the law and hold the meeting in the district. Interim Administrator Rick Sweet read an email from district legal counsel Gil Trujillo that said the out of district location was in compliance with the Brown Act.
Following the meeting, Tacker sent a demand to cure and correct letter to the district and the SLO County District Attorney’s Office that was also signed by Arroyo Grande Architectural Review Commissioner Coleen Kubel, Arroyo Grande Historical Commissioner Patricia Price, Kris Victorine, John Clemons and David Panaro and former Grover Beach mayors Ron Arnoldson and Debbie Peterson.
Tacker’s letter threatened that if sanitation district officials did not re-hold the meeting at a location within the district’s boundaries, she had the right to take the district to court.
“The main objective of the cure and correct was to force the district to redo the meeting, within the district boundaries, as to include Mayor Hill,” Tacker said.
On April 17, Deputy District Attorney Michael Frye responded with a letter warning district officials to follow the law.
“The April, 7, 2018 special meeting occurred outside your territorial jurisdiction, a violation of Government Code 54954 (b),” Frye wrote in his letter. “This section requires that, except for circumstances not present here, regular or special meetings must occur within boundaries of the territory in which the local agency exercises jurisdiction.
“This letter serves as a notice of violation and a warning that future meetings must occur within the boundaries of the sanitation district. Further violations may result in legal action by this office,” Frye wrote.
Sanitation district legal counsel Gil Trujillo suggested that the district send a letter to Tacker and others promising they would never improperly hold a meeting out of area again. He also argued that the meeting did not need to be re-held because no action had been taken.
The SLO County District Attorney’s Office did not agree.
“Government Code Section Board 54952.6 defines action taken to include a collective commitment or promise by the majority of a legislative body to make a positive or negative decision…” Frye wrote. “A decision to select the top candidates, which implies the exclusion of others, is a positive or negative decision which constitutes action.“
At an April 18 sanitation district board meeting, multiple members of the community asked the board to cure and correct the April 7 meeting by canceling all actions and re-holding the meeting.
As Tacker walked back to her seat, former sanitation district board member Mary Lucey called Tacker a “fat ass.” Tacker then confronted Lucey and alerted District Board Chair Linda Austin to the harassment. Austin banged her gavel down, but took no other action.
Lucey has regularly degraded speakers by playing mooing sounds from her phone or calling names as they walk to or from the podium during pubic comment. Even so, Austin appears to ignore the ongoing harassment.
The board then voted 3-0 to send a letter to Tacker explaining that they will no longer hold meetings outside the district and they will re-hold the illegal meeting at a future time.