Cambria agrees to correct open meeting law issues

Julie Tacker

The Cambria Community Services District agreed to stop charging for emailed agendas after receiving a cease and desist letter from activist Julie Tacker.

Last month, Assistant General Manager Monique Madrid invited the public to go to the district website to subscribe for agendas. On the website, the district charged $36 a year for emailed agendas in violation of the Public Records Act and the Ralph M. Brown Act.

Tacker, an expert in sunshine laws, sent a cease and desist demand to the district asking them to stop the practice, reimburse fees or face a lawsuit.

In her letter, Tacker noted the fee had been inequitably applied and may have disenfranchised low or fixed income residents from participating.

Tim Carmel, Cambria’s legal counsel, thanked Tacker for “bringing another matter relating to compliance with the Brown Act to our attention,” and agreed to stop the practice and return any fees collected.

“The district takes compliance with the requirements of the Brown Act seriously, and in that respect we are appreciative of your diligence in seeking to assure such compliance,” Carmel wrote. “Based on our review of the statutes, we have advised CCSD staff to discontinue the fee for emailed subscriptions.”

The Ralph M. Brown Act was passed in 1953 because of mounting concerns that government bodies were avoiding scrutiny by meeting secretly. The act guarantees the public the right to attend and participate in meetings of legislative bodies, and to have forewarning of discussion items through agendas.

“I just want access for all,” Tacker said. “The fee was collected illegally and I’m thrilled the funds will be returned.”