OPINION by JULIE TACKER
The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors is having a special board meeting on April 28 to receive their COVID-19 update and to consider sending a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom regarding reopening of local businesses.
The meeting agenda was posted at 9 a.m. this past Friday morning, but did not include any staff reports or a draft of the letter they might send. Not having these documents available at the same time as the agenda, for the public to peruse over the weekend, flies in the face of public trust through willing transparency.
The supervisors have new meeting procedures that are complicated and difficult to access. The board room is closed to the public during the coronavirus crisis. Instead, they require written comments (emails and letters) be received by 5 p.m. on Monday, before the meeting day, voicemail comments must be left by 9 a.m. just prior to calling the meeting to order, or, if you’re lucky enough to get to listen and/or watch the meeting, you can call in to comment when the phone lines open in real time.
A basic Brown Act goal gives the public the right to participate meaningfully in meetings, and to review documents used in decision-making the same time the majority of the board has it.
I believe the majority of the board has the documents that are required to be available to the public under Government Code Sections 54957.5(b)(1), “If a writing that is a public record under subdivision (a), and that relates to an agenda item for an open session of a regular meeting of the legislative body of a local agency, is distributed less than 72 hours prior to that meeting, the writing shall be made available for public inspection pursuant to paragraph (2) at the time the writing is distributed to all, or a majority of all, of the members of the body.”
I also believe the board and their staff are, as Sunday’s Tribune editorial states, “sharing a draft of its “roadmap with city officials, business and industry groups, churches and nonprofit agencies.”
They further violate the Brown Act, specifically section 54952.2 (b) (1) where it says, “A majority of the members of a legislative body shall not, outside a meeting authorized by this chapter, use a series of communications of any kind, directly or through intermediaries, to discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item of business that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body.”
You will never convince me that a majority of the supervisors do not have the draft recovery plan and draft letter to Newsom already in their possession and aren’t using “a series of communications, directly or through intermediaries, to discuss, deliberate, or taking action deliberating this subject.”
In this critical health crisis, when everyone in this county has a stake in the boards recovery plan and draft letter to the governor, transparency should be the board’s highest priority. These documents should be made available to the public well before they take action so the public at large, not special interests alone, can participate fully.