We think the Brown Act is very clear.
But don’t take our word for it. Here’s the League of California Cities legal advice to all public boards, commissions and councils in the state:
“The Board cannot discuss or take action on any item that is not on the agenda.”
And yet, discuss something not on the agenda is exactly what members of the Del Norte Healthcare District recently did at their last meeting. For about 10 minutes, according to eyewitness accounts.
This was after healthcare district board members acknowledged they were prohibited by law from even discussing the matter because it wasn’t on the agenda.
Discussed was a letter received from the Sutter Coast Hospital board. The hospital’s board apparently asked the duly elected members of the healthcare district board if they wanted to collaborate in enhancing almost non-existent mental health services available in Del Norte County.
The excuse offered by some healthcare district board members for discussing something at length that was not on the agenda? The letter had only been received a few hours before the start of the meeting.
Fine. Put it on the agenda for the next meeting and give the public proper legal notice. That way any and all persons interested in improving the lack of mental health services in this county can attend.
Some may be willing to write it off as a mere infraction of the law. We think even minor violations of the law have a way of adding up to more and bigger violations somewhere down that very slippery slope.
Because sometimes elected officials get caught up in their own personal agendas and forget they are conducting the public’s business.
The Brown Act was made law by the California Legislature to ensure the public’s business is conducted in public.
“In enacting this chapter,” reads the preamble to the Brown Act, “the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly. The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”
The healthcare district board owes the public an apology.
Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the Del Norte Triplicate editorial board, which includes Publisher Kim Fowler, Editor Robin Fornoff and Managing Editor Matthew Durkee.