Oceano accused of Brown Act violations

February 21, 2012

By KAREN VELIE

Oceano Community Service District Board members and administrative staff have been handed two threats of litigation because of alleged violations of open meetings laws that protect public access to information and participation.

Several critics have filed or voiced complaints about Oceano’s apparent ongoing disregard for the Ralph M. Brown Act and now the state’s leading authority on open meeting laws has warned district officials that they need to follow the law or face litigation.

The charges claim, among other things, that the board requires the public to comment on board items that have not been explained in the agenda and before the staff report leaving the public at a disadvantage.

“We are confident that a court would find that a rule forcing citizens to address the board on an agenda item before it is given its explanatory introduction by the staff member or other person presenting it is not ‘reasonable’ within the meaning of the Brown Act,” said Terry Francke, the director of CalAware and arguably the foremost authority on the Brown Act. “This practice does not permit an informed comment to the board, since the agenda itself often provides no clue as to the content of a proposal or report to be provided under a given agenda item.

“Please inform the Board that unless this practice is abandoned in favor of permitting comment after introduction of agenda items, I will recommend to our Litigation Committee that we file an action for declaratory and injunctive relief to compel such a change, plus an award of costs and attorney fees,” Francke added.

In addition to questions about keeping the public informed about district business, the district is also under fire for providing a raise and a permanent position to Interim General Manager Tom Geaslan without the required public disclosures and participation.

On the Feb. 8 Oceano board agenda, Geaslan placed public employee appointment as a closed session item. During the private session, the board provided Geaslan a $27,000 annual increase in salary, along with back dating the increase to Jan. 1 and also promoted Geaslan to general manager as of June 30.

On Feb. 20, activist Kevin Rice sent a cure and correct demand letter pointing out numerous failings with the Brown Act. The letter asks the board to rescind its decision or face litigation:

“The agenda described the item as “PUBLIC EMPLOYEE APPOINTMENT” pursuant to sections 54954.5(e) and 54957. Such closed sessions shall not include discussion or action on proposed compensation. (§ 54957(b)(4).)

“When pertaining to compensation, the agenda notice must refer to a “CONFERENCE WITH LABOR NEGOTIATORS” and name the agency representatives and the unrepresented employee. (§§ 54954.5(f) and 54957.6.)

“Closed sessions may not include final action on the proposed compensation of one or more unrepresented employees. (§ 54957.6(a).)

“The employment contract must be disclosed. (§ 54957.1(c).)”

Activist Julie Tacker contends the increase in Geaslan’s salary to $120,000 is unwarranted, citing the districts continuing financial trouble, his lack of public administration experience and his failures to follow California’s transparency laws.

“Mr Geaslan came into the district promising to clean up the books and find a permanent general manager and all he has done is set himself up to take the position at an increased salary that the district can ill afford,” Tacker said.

The 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, to have forewarning of discussion items through posted agendas and forbids a majority of board members from discussing government issues in private.


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Disgusted

Loved the callers. Mary Lucey thought she was arguing Robert’s Rules instead of the Brown Act, which she claimed to be VERY familiar with. Really? The meetings seem to run better than in the past because of the new members and Manager imo. When did Carole and Mary part ways, and over what?


willieslo

As a reminder to all!

Mary Lucey’s 12 years experience working for the city of LA are from an era that bought LA to its knees with respects to fiscal irresponsibility.

She is not what the Central Coast wants or needs, and we are not fresh meat for the same subtle SOS!


Bored Watcher

Response to Typoqueen:

If you want to stop the Price Canyon project, you should actually get to know Julie Tacker. JT has stopped or successfully shaped projects due to her educated activism. Did you catch her on Congalton Monday? She clipped that solar carport project in half by using appeals…not one dime spent on a lawyer or courtroom appearance.

BTW, as for Price Canyon/Pismo and the relation to SWI in Oceano, you’d better be careful what you wish for. If it is deemed there really is SWI in Oceano it will give the County, Pismo and others the argument they need to grab all the excess State Water (which is what they are positioning to do) they can and you will see Price Canyon developed all the way to SLO and an explosion in development like you never dreamed.

Supporting the idea that there is SWI in Oceano as you have been will backfire on your purpose.

One more thing, JT knows the Brown Act inside and out. Oceano was wrong to do what they’ve done and they’d be smart to “cure and correct” as Rice demands.

Look out, if Rice and Tacker ever join forces there will be Government particulate matter all over the County. :)


Pizmo

I just got through listening to Karen on Dave ‘s show and I’ve got to say that I listened to the funniest radio that I’ve heard in years. We’re talking serious laughs.


Now, I don’t profess to know much about the topic nor do I have a dog in this fight. I just tuned in after reading this article. A woman who I presume to be on the Oceano Board of Directors called in to defend their actions regarding the Brown act. I think her name was Mary Lucy (sp?) The first minute of her call was spent listening to her attempt to turn down her computer. After several attempts, it finally dawns on her that she can simply walk away from the computer!!!!! Whoa!!!! The rest of the rambling call was misinformation that was continually corrected by Karen and Dave, mixed in with her continual assertion that they welcome input from the community. (Thanks… we heard you the third time).


If this inarticulate dope represents Oceano, then there’s no hope for the city.


Pizmo

Sorry… meant “Board of Supervisors”.


Disgusted

You had it right. She sits on the OCSD board. I bet you’ll be watching their meetings from now on.


Typoqueen

I had mixed feelings about Lucey’s call. I was thinking the same thing about turning down the computer and in part of the call she sounded a bit disheveled. But then she picked up steam and made a bit more sense as the call went on IMO, I think she found her MOJO a bit towards the end of the call. But hey, it’s Oceano, this is the best board that they’ve ever had (not a high bar to reach) so I’m not going to complain too much.


Pizmo

If “A bit disheveled” is code for “had a few glasses of wine before the call (allegedly)”, then I agree.


cry-me-a-river

And Julie Tacker thinks she is qualified? After her involvement in bankrupting Los Osos? Her and her boyfriend, Jeff Edwards have set their sights on Oceano after being run out of Los Osos. They can just move on, no one wants them in Oceano.


Typoqueen

I have never ever agreed with Tacker. I’m not an expert on LO but I’ve been paying attention long enough to know the damage she’s done. I don’t care for either her or he guy toy. But I must say that for the first time ever that in this case I agreed with her. The way they conducted that meeting was so outrageous that it was funny. But Oceano has enough troubles, I hope that Tacker and Edwards aren’t going to get their hooks in them.


oceanone

Julie has not been run out of Los Osos. It’s easy to make personal remarks about others but tough to stay on topic and make wise statements.


cry-me-a-river

Here is a wise statement for you. Julie Tacker and her man will never get their foot in the door in Oceano. They may still live in Los Osos but I seriously doubt you will see either one serving on a board, committee or anything to do with Los Osos public service. They are done.


Oneohfirst

The new OCSD director, apparently, was not over qualified for the job. As I understand it, Geaslen’s previous experience is as an auto broker. He got the director’s job from Honest Paul Teixiera as a political favor for being Paul’s campaign manager. Honest Paul is another piece of work. He has never been able to get together enough money to buy his own home but, he manages a multimillion dollar County budget. Their qualifications leave a lot to be desired.


Typoqueen

I can’t remember her name but their attorney is a joke. She advised the board to only allow public comment as the article states prior to the staff report. I enjoy watching Oceano meetings but this is just too funny, this is good TV. People get up and comment on something that they know nothing about because they’re not allowed to hear the needed information first. They say something like, ‘okay, next on the agenda is the staff report on salt water intrusion’ is there any public comments on the staff report’,,,,,LOL before it’s presented!! I don’t care for Julie Tacker but watching her get up to speak with a puzzled look on her face was so funny. I was amazed at how calm she kept when she tried to explain how a$$ backwards this was. But the board didn’t care, they thought it was normal and worse yet their chair person is also an attorney. And people trust thier claim of no salt water intrusion. Anyone that can watch these meetings I highly recommend that you do so.


Gotta love OCSD Board.


SLOBIRD

Oceano saga, volume II or is it III, IV, or V. Must be in the water, they are normal upon arrival and then, and then….. (Has Adam Hill drunk any of this??? I’m sure he must have!)


Typoqueen

What does this have to do with Adam Hill? Is this just a pointless excuse to bag on AH?


Kevin Rice

I wouldn’t put that lying manipulator Adam Hill in the same regard as Oceano CSD. I have every confidence that OCSD will correct these issues, completely opposite of making up a cover story like A.H. Too bad so many people will stand with a liar.


Typoqueen

As I said, he as nothing to do with this, Oceano isn’t in his area so why was he even brought up. Sometimes we need to stand with those that support or vote on issues that we agree with. I vote on the issues that are important to me not on personalities. Also, there’s always two sides to every story. Well, that’s a different argument for a different day.


I heard you on the radio and after hearing Mary Lucey I have a tendency to agree with what you said on the radio. It sounds like the whole story wasn’t reported on the GM and now that I’ve heard Lucey I’d say that more was made of that then there should have been. Once again everyone jumped the gun. Yes it could have been done better but it’s not the end of the world and it’s ten fold better than the way things used to be done. I feel that the GM, although he has his faults, so far he seems a lot better then what they’ve had in the past. I believe that Karen said that there audit wasn’t complete yet, I thought it was. Do you know about that?


Regarding the public comment time, it really was funny to watch. I’m glad that Mary agreed that it seemed odd and it sounds like they’re going to change it back to the correct way. The only issue I have is why didn’t she speak up during the meeting and say ‘wait a minute, this is whacked. Let’s go back to the way that public comments should be’? I would also like to know what the attorney was thinking when she advised them to do this, what was the purpose, do you know?


BTW, did you hear the speaker that Dave had to cut off,,she’s one of our favorites. I wonder why oto hasn’t had anything to say on all this.


Disgusted

It’s a shame that people have to choose between their goals and the character of one who represents them. You’d hope you could have both in a representative. Hill has shown over and over that he’s a loose cannon that can’t tolerate any opposition to his cause. He needs to go.


SLOChuck

Of course it’s probably in the water… likely the result of Wallace Group intrusion.


Disgusted

Who’s the OCSD attorney?


kayaknut

I’d guess its some board members brother, sister, friend, neighbor, or such given the way boards in this area work.


OldNed

Molly Thurmond of Hall, Hieatt & Connely


Justducky

What is worse she(the attorney)/they (the Board) were warned about possible Brown Act violations from a member of the audience during the meeting re: seawater intrusion but just blew it off. I don’t think they are very used to having to follow any rules down their and Mr. Geaslan has taken full advantage of their naivety.