Oceano board squelches public comment
July 2, 2012
The public comment period during last week’s Oceano Community Services District Board meeting was squelched after the board inaccurately determined rules barring elected officials from speaking about personnel issues also extended to members of the public.
Public comment audio:
Board President Matt Guerrero shut down comments from Los Osos resident Jeff Edwards during the June 27 meeting by stopping the meeting and calling the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s office for assistance. Three deputies detained Edwards for about 10 minutes and prohibited him from speaking during the the public comment period.
Edwards was attempting to address his concerns about the management of the district and a supervisor who was on paid administrative leave after firing a disabled employee, an item slated to be discussed by the board in closed session.
The Ralph M. Brown Act, which established rules for public comment at government meetings, permits members of the public to speak on personnel issues slated for discussion in closed session. Board member Mary Lucey argued that speakers could not discuss personnel issues in front of her regardless of what the law says.
“Sir, you are not going to talk about people right to privacy,” Lucey said. “I don’t care what you think the laws is you are not going to disclose people’s right to privacy in front of me.”
Lucey and Edwards argued throughout much of the three minutes allotted to public speakers prior to each agenda item. During the exchange, Edward’s microphone was cut off, deputies were called and he was escorted from the board room.
Several board members said that Edwards had disrupted the meeting prior to public comment by speaking out of turn while not at the podium. In addition, board members voiced their concerns that Edwards often comments on district issues even though he does not live in Oceano. These comments, board members contend, extend the meetings at a cost to the district.
Nevertheless, the Ralph M. Brown Act does not allow board members to bar people who live out of area from commenting during meetings.
In addition, following the removal of Edwards from the building, the board reopened public comment and allowed former board member Barbara Mann to speak for four minutes on her respect for the board and displeasure with Edwards.