Oceano attempting to muffle public comment

June 26, 2012

Oceano Community Services District Board members will vote Wednesday on whether to  limit public speaker comments to six minutes per meeting in what has been labeled an attempt to create orderly meetings.

District attorney Molly Thurmond is also suggesting that the board approve changing from the current system in which members of the public have an opportunity to speak before every agenda item, to limit public comment to three sessions.

Thurman says that both the cities of Burbank and Santa Monica have similar policies and “are not often in the news for Brown Act Violations.”

Burbank’s City Council voted to limit public comments to only three periods per meeting. However, the public is then permitted to speak for up to 11 minutes.

Santa Monica City Council, following several meetings that ran past 1 a.m. with up to 50 members of the public speaking on an agenda item, voted to limit public comment to six minutes per speaker.

In contrast, Oceano usually only has two to three members of the public in attendance at meetings that last only a few hours. Speakers, however, often question the district’s  failure to comply to Brown Act laws and government codes in place to provide transparency and public participation.

For example, at an upcoming meeting attendees plan to speak on the districts failure to comply to state budgeting requirements.

Districts are required to notice a budget hearing in a local paper at least 15 days before the hearing required by law to be set on or before July 1. Oceano Manager Thomas Geaslen said a finance committee meeting, that was not noticed in a local paper of record, counts as the district’s budget hearing and allows him to continue spending after July 1 without the required public budget hearing.


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27 Comments

  1. WiseGuy says:

    Blacksmith’s comments left on the other thread were very illuminating to many, including myself. Blacksmith was brave to leave those comments, considering. And you felt the need to delete them. Why? Kevin P. Rice is news. Bad news, but news nevertheless and is worthy of discussion in the community. He may not post anonymously, but few people really know who he is. Don’t be chumps.

    (-5) 11 Total Votes - 3 up - 8 down
    • Moderator says:

      Blacksmith’s comments remain, they were NOT deleted , do you have anything to contribute to this discussion? your comment here derails the topic.
      btw the topic is not the moderator or CCN.

      (8) 8 Total Votes - 8 up - 0 down
    • cathy says:

      The last two meetings Tacker/Edwards have taken up 33 minutes each meeting to attack everything OCSD does. This costs the ratepayers not only money but wasted time listening to the same negative things over and over. Tonight fort he upteenth time we had to listen to Edwards blather on and on about getting rid of the airport. The residents WHO LIVE HERE and who’s community it is have made it clear they want the airport to remain.

      I have been there since Cooney and the disaster Montemurro brought. For the first time things are getting taken care of and the ratepayers and residents are happy and satisfied with the GM and what the board is doing.

      Tacker/Edwards disrupted the PEOPLE OF OCEANO’s meeting again tonight. Plus Edwards directed cruel and nasty remarks to an elderly woman, which were totally uncalled for. Additionally they spoiled a lovely commendation for an Eagle Scout. The young man, parents and grandparents left, horrified at the bad behavior.

      The people of Oceano are so tired of these sad self-serving attention getting antics. They could take a lesson from the Eagle Scout who brought positive help for the community. All that wasted negative energy could be used to do good and kind things. But as the old saying goes “Misery loves company.” I honestly pity them.

      (9) 15 Total Votes - 12 up - 3 down
      • Bored Watcher says:

        I’ll have to wait for the replay on Ch. 21, but since you attended Cathy, please tell us what was the explanation for not having a budget? I see they have a Special Meeting tonight to “extend current budget”. What exactly does that mean? That’s a new one on me.

        (-3) 5 Total Votes - 1 up - 4 down
        • cathy says:

          I’ll let you watch the meeting. I have been a watch dog and skeptic for a very long time and have kept active eyes and ears on OCSD. A reasonable person will be satisfied with the explanation expounded on at the meeting last night. You can watch and make your own conclustion. I am not going to try and do damage control for the unfounded attacks. I have invested a lot of time and energy in MY community and I am completely satisfied with the current status. Too bad our happy couple didn’t go to Sacramento when our state budget was months late. They should expend their “expertise” and energy on the big stuff. They would be good paid lobbyists instead of trying to suck the life out of OUR community.

          (6) 12 Total Votes - 9 up - 3 down
    • Disgusted says:

      Your obsession with KPR exposes your biases and that’s about all. Your reference to Blacksmith’s “bravery” makes no sense since most don’t know his/her identity. What’s he/she have to lose? False claims and gossip are easy for both you and Blacksmith, but your agenda is well-known. You accuse KPR of hurting Waage’s campaign, yet your attempt to do so is well documented. So, what’s your point. You don’t trust KPR, and I can’t trust you.
      Back on topic, Oceano needs to carefully assess the move they contemplate, because it gives the opposition even more ammunition.

      (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
  2. falconbh says:

    The bigger question is what the Oceano CSD is trying to hide from the public ?

    Audits
    Corruption
    Brown Act
    Budget
    Salaries
    Illegal Prop 218 Election
    State Laws
    Hiring Practices
    Mismanagement
    Disclosures
    Legal Costs
    Fire Tax
    Bidding Procedures
    Gift of Public Funds
    Accounting
    Fraud
    OCSD Policies and Procedures
    Conflicts of Interest

    (-3) 11 Total Votes - 4 up - 7 down
  3. WiseGuy says:

    Darn, the moderator has apparently deleted those very interesting comments about SLOrider.

    (-6) 6 Total Votes - 0 up - 6 down
    • Moderator says:

      It is time for you to get a blog of your own, moderation as a discussion topic ? inside Kevin Rice?
      . No more deliberate disingenuous disparaging derails.for you.(WG comments moderated before they appear)

      (8) 8 Total Votes - 8 up - 0 down
      • WiseGuy says:

        How about you set up a thread specifically to discuss moderating forums like this one? What would it hurt? And, as a matter of fact, I think it is time somebody wrote a comprehensive, balanced article about political operative Kevin P. Rice.

        (-3) 9 Total Votes - 3 up - 6 down
        • Moderator says:

          I get mail ! read for yourself.
          from Kevin : ‘off topic personal attacks’
          WiseGuy/blacksmith

          I strongly support you encouraging them to write an opinion piece if they wish to make their accusations public.

          (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
        • SLORider says:

          Excellent idea. Both you and blacksmith should now email/call Karen Velie with your concerns and I will encourage such an article and avail myself to respond.

          (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
  4. As the world turns says:

    Public entities should limit comments from attorneys to create civil society.

    (2) 10 Total Votes - 6 up - 4 down
  5. doggin says:

    Simply put the laws are as they may be, however when you have those in charge who deny public comment nobody gets to voice their concerns. Take Bill Nicolls as an example at the San Dist meetings, he simply told the public he was not going to allow any public comments,game over. You speck out and your escorted out or told your in violation of their little game and not to interrupt the Das Furer…..I mean chairperson Nicholls as he speaks.. Naturally Mr. Sietz is there with his smugness telling us were all ignorant and only he knows the details of Brown act. Kudos to Mr.Seitz, musta been why Terry Franke of Cal Aware said to get an attorney and file charges against the boys club because their so intelligent and law abiding.

    (7) 15 Total Votes - 11 up - 4 down
    • SLORider says:

      I’m not sure what the Sanitation District has to do with Oceano CSD’s public comment period.

      (2) 10 Total Votes - 6 up - 4 down
      • doggin says:

        Id guess about as irrelevant as the last 17 comments you posted in the San Districts1.4 mil news story. Just sayin though, it nothing more than an example of how things work in the Good ole boys club in Oceano where their all pals and corruption,defiance and arrogance are utilized to hide the truth.

        (-2) 8 Total Votes - 3 up - 5 down
  6. SLORider says:

    SPECIFIC QUESTIONS:

    – May a board limit public comment by allowing only one comment period for multiple hearing items?

    – May a board force public comment to occur prior to staff presentations on hearing items, thereby depriving the public of commenting on staff presentation content?

    – May a board limit public comment by combining agenda/non-agenda comments into one period?

    – May a board place an overall time limit per meeting on public comment?

    FACTUAL BACKGROUND:

    Oceano CSD is contemplating a new policy[1] on Wednesday which prescribes three public comment periods as follows:

    (1) “…before the consent agenda…to comment on any matter of District business, whether or not it is on the Agenda…”

    (2) Prior to consideration of Public Hearings and Business Items.

    (3) At the end of a meeting for those “who have not used their entire allotted time” (total of six minutes per meeting)

    I can find no statutory conflicts with this proposed policy, yet I am dismayed by the restrictions on public comments that it would enact. It appears the cities of Burbank and Santa Monica have similar policies[2][3] which Oceano CSD refers to as models.

    REFERENCES:

    [1] Proposed OCSD public comment policy (see page 25), Agenda packet June 27, 2012.
    http://oceanocsd.org/agendas/BOD%2006%2027%202012.pdf

    [2] Guidelines for Attending and Speaking at Burbank City Council Meetings.
    http://admin-101.granicus.com/content/burbank/Guidelines.pdf

    [3] Santa Monica Rules of Order for the Conduct of City Council Meetings.
    http://www01.smgov.net/cityclerk/council/agendas/2012/20120522/AgendaBack.htm

    (9) 23 Total Votes - 16 up - 7 down
    • blacksmith says:

      Forget about SLORider’s “specific questions”. They are irrevelant.

      The main argument is can you limit a speaker to 6 minutes. The answer is simply, no.

      Let me explain. Suppose a residient speaks out for 3 minutes at the beginning of a meeting on topics not on the agenda. This is allowable.

      The same speaker speaks another 3 minutes on an item on the agenda, say the GM salary.

      Now according to this new provision that the OCSD hopes to pass, this person cannot speak again. This is directly contrary to Gov Code 54954.3 (a). which is part of the larger “Brown Act”. (see the below government code)

      Now you can argue that subsection (b) give them the right to set limits on speakers, but it has to be “reasonable”. Disallowing any comment at all violates the main intent of the code and opens up the OCSD to more lawsuits. And for what purpose? You elected these people. After they got in office they are telling you to shut your mouth. Anyone angry yet?

      SLORider, stick to your day job.

      For Reference:

      54954.3. (a) Every agenda for regular meetings shall provide an
      opportunity for members of the public to directly address the
      legislative body on any item of interest to the public, before or
      during the legislative body’s consideration of the item, that is
      within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body,
      provided that no action shall be taken on any item not appearing on
      the agenda unless the action is otherwise authorized by subdivision
      (b) of Section 54954.2. However, the agenda need not provide an
      opportunity for members of the public to address the legislative body
      on any item that has already been considered by a committee,
      composed exclusively of members of the legislative body, at a public
      meeting wherein all interested members of the public were afforded
      the opportunity to address the committee on the item, before or
      during the committee’s consideration of the item, unless the item has
      been substantially changed since the committee heard the item, as
      determined by the legislative body. Every notice for a special
      meeting shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to
      directly address the legislative body concerning any item that has
      been described in the notice for the meeting before or during
      consideration of that item.
      (b) The legislative body of a local agency may adopt reasonable
      regulations to ensure that the intent of subdivision (a) is carried
      out, including, but not limited to, regulations limiting the total
      amount of time allocated for public testimony on particular issues
      and for each individual speaker.
      (c) The legislative body of a local agency shall not prohibit
      public criticism of the policies, procedures, programs, or services
      of the agency, or of the acts or omissions of the legislative body.
      Nothing in this subdivision shall confer any privilege or protection
      for expression beyond that otherwise provided by law.

      (5) 25 Total Votes - 15 up - 10 down
      • SLORider says:

        Specific question 4: “May a board place an overall time limit per meeting on public comment?”

        blacksmith writes: “Forget about SLORider’s “specific questions”. They are irrevelant [sic]. The main argument is can you limit a speaker to 6 minutes.”

        Same thing!

        Next, please tell us how you interpret 54954.3 to make it applicable: If a speaker uses the full 3 minutes at both comment periods where is the “unreasonable” limit? Please cite a source as the interpretation of “unreasonable” is not yours to conclude. Please show us statute, controlling case law or an A.G. opinion.

        (7) 11 Total Votes - 9 up - 2 down
        • blacksmith says:

          Yes, you are correct, it was the same thing. Unfortunately how you framed your argument, and the other questions and references that you used were garbage, so I had to throw out everything, even your one relevant question.

          Now, how is it applicable? Extending my previous example, if this person has used up their “alloted” six minutes on two agenda items and now wants to speak on a third item on the agenda, they get told very politely that you can no longer speak because you have used up all of your “alloted” time. BUT, the law very clearly states that everyone has the right to speak on any item on the agenda. (see gov code above) This is where the conflict occurs. The board would be in violation of the law at this point.

          As for the rest of your comments, specifically “unreasonable” is not yours to conclude”. You are wrong! What is unreasonable is for everyone to conclude. The problem is you would then have to spend a lot of your money in court to prove the issue.

          I would talk to Terry at First Amendment Coalition about case law. You have talked to him before have you not?

          What people need to take away from this story is that unless government is challenged, basically in court, or with a good turnout at meetings, they can make any rule they want and get away with it. OCSD is the poster child for this, but this is what is happening at all levels of government, and is what is eroding our freedoms and rights on a daily basis.

          (-5) 11 Total Votes - 3 up - 8 down
          • SLORider says:

            Terry founded CalAware, not FAC. He is a wonderful resource, as is his book, which provides controlling court opinions to support claims and cautions against averring claims which have not yet been challenged.

            Hence, I do not agree that it is up to “everyone” to decide how to interpret statute, though anyone may file a challenge and attempt to persuade the courts to opine. In every case it is the court which is the trier of fact, not “everyone”.

            As to your opinion on the OCSD proposal, I do not agree with your view of the situation. There is nothing that binds a commenter from splitting their three minutes up to address multiple items. The statute guarantees the right to address any item on the agenda but does not guarantee three minutes–or any other length of time–per item.

            Your comment that my references are garbage is ostentatious. My references provide links to the OCSD proposal that everyone should read, and the Burbank and Santa Monica policies referred to by OCSD counsel. Calling these references ‘garbage’ appears to be nothing more than needling (a form of false argumentation).

            The additional questions posed also address less than amicable results of the proposed comment policy. Why do you insist on not caring that the public will lose the opportunity to comment on non-agenda items separately from consent items? Why is it unimportant to you that the public won’t be opportuned to hear staff reports prior to commenting on hearing items?

            (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down
          • MaryMalone says:

            QUOTING BLACKSMITH:
            “Yes, you are correct, it was the same thing. Unfortunately how you framed your argument, and the other questions and references that you used were garbage, so I had to throw out everything, even your one relevant question.”

            1. You were wrong, Blacksmith, and now you attempt to change the focus of your complaint to how the argument was framed.

            2. OCSD is, again, trying to pull a fast one. There is an issue they are trying to keep covered up, and I have to wonder if this attempt to restrict public input to, and questioning of, the Board of Directors, is to assist the Board in limiting the questions and input to the board which is available to the public.

            (0) 8 Total Votes - 4 up - 4 down
            • Disgusted says:

              I think this potential limitation stems from the 2 outsiders who continuously criticize staff at the OCSD meetings. There is contempt for them, and inasmuch as they MAY make some good points, why have they made this their mission? They have cost the district money in requested data that I believe was in the $1,000 range.
              But, if the OCSD does limit public comment, the duo has more to complain about, and the rest of the public must be limited as well., which is an unfair result.

              (8) 8 Total Votes - 8 up - 0 down
            • cathy says:

              Mary watch the meeting. You know I have always questioned when things were wrong and supported Pam Dean when she had to go to court over the illegal appointment. I searched and found damning information on Montemurro. BTW where were Edwards and Tacker when these things were going on.

              No one is trying to cover up any issues. People stay away from meetings because they are monopolized by Edwards and Tacker and they are sick to death of listening to them.

              The board had to find a way to keep Edwards and Tacker from taking up valuable time and costing the residents a lot of money. Watch the meeting, residents will not be denied on important issues. No one else wants to spend 33 minutes a meeting attacking and making false accusations.

              (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
  7. blacksmith says:

    Rockhound1965 speaks the truth but it bears repeating.

    “They did it simply to suppress local opinion, all with the blessing of the CSD attorney, who works for the board, not the citizens of the community.”

    “They did it simply to suppress local opinion, all with the blessing of the CSD attorney, who works for the board, not the citizens of the community.”

    “They did it simply to suppress local opinion, all with the blessing of the CSD attorney, who works for the board, not the citizens of the community.”

    “They did it simply to suppress local opinion, all with the blessing of the CSD attorney, who works for the board, not the citizens of the community.”

    (1) 21 Total Votes - 11 up - 10 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      Thanks, but most of us don’t need you to SPAM a common-sense opinion–an opinion which has been expressed by many–over and over again in the same post.

      You are not telling us anything we don’t already know, and this kind of SPAM t is not going to make the board mod very happy.

      (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
  8. rockhound1965 says:

    This is exactly what the California Valley CSD did….right after it changed the time of the monthly meetings to 2pm Tuesday afternoon (when people work or go to school) from 5pm (when almost everyone in the community could attend and be heard). They did it simply to suppress local opinion, all with the blessing of the CSD attorney, who works for the board, not the citizens of the community. Now, almost no one attends the meetings. Maybe 5 people in the audience. When the meetings were at 5pm, the room was almost filled every meeting. 20 to 30 people. That is what lawyers do for the community. People did complain to the D.A., who took no notice. What a shock. Unless it is a tweeker torturing another human…no one pays attention to Cal Valley or the Carrizo Plain.

    (18) 26 Total Votes - 22 up - 4 down

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