Californians Aware serves Demand for Correction on GGUSD for failure to follow Brown Act

GARDEN GROVE — On Monday, February 1, 2010 Richard McKee of Californians Aware sent the Garden Grove Unified School District (GGUSD) a “Demand for Correction” letter citing repeated and continued violation of California’s open meetings laws.

Californians Aware is a nonprofit organization established to help journalists and others keep Californians aware of what they need to know to hold government and other powerful institutions accountable for their actions. Its mission is to support and defend open government, an enquiring press and a citizenry free to exchange facts and opinions on public issues.

McKee’s letter came on the heals of my story yesterday outlining additional Brown Act violations and clarifying evidence that the violation disputed by the district that occurred on December 15, 2009. McKee starts off simply enough, by getting directly to the point:

A review of agendas and minutes was stimulated by the Board’s Brown Act violation of December 15, 2009.  And yes, it was a violation of §§ 54952.2, 54954.2, 54954.3, and 54962 when, prior to the beginning of that meeting, Board member Lan Quoc Nguyen discussed, in serial fashion with Board members Harden and West, that night’s agenda item identified as “ANNUAL ORGANIZATION ACTION: A. Election of Officers,” in a volume sufficient to be overheard by Dr. Nguyen-Lam. 

Hmm, seems I wasn’t just blindly throwing stuff around to see what would stick after all. McKee goes on to write:

Additionally, the Board consistently violates §§ 54954.2 and 54954.3 by taking actions on items of business without the agenda providing an opportunity for public comment on those items.

For example, December 15th the Board took several actions during the Annual Organization Action without allowing public comment.  January 5 and 19, the Board took action on Minutes without prior public comment. In fact, the agenda provides no specific notice to the public that members will ever be able to address the Board during its meetings.  “PUBLIC HEARINGS, PRESENTATIONS, AND REPORTS” is confusing and insufficient notice.

Furthermore, all closed sessions for 12/15, 1/5, 1/12, and 2/2 are improperly noticed.  Announcements of past closed sessions, as required by § 54957.7, are never in compliance, failing to provide the required information.

Then came the demand part of his letter:

Demands for Correction:      

  1. On February 2, 2010, the Board shall not hold its 5 pm Study Session, because the posted agenda does not provide for public comment during that 2-hour portion of the meeting, as required by §§ 54954.2 and 54954.3.
  2. On February 2, 2010, the Board shall not hold the item “6. C. Closed Session Pursuant to Government Code Section 54957 …” as this item is improperly identified. 
  3. On February 2, 2010, the Board shall reverse the agenda order of items 1. and 2., announcing to the public that this is their opportunity to comment directly to the Board on any item listed on the agenda, or on any other item of business within the Board’s jurisdiction.
  4. The Board shall publicly agree to carefully identify an opportunity for public comment on all future agendas, which clearly conforms with the requirements of §§ 54954.2 and 54954.3.
  5. The Board shall publicly agree to properly agendize and/or announce all closed session items, providing all information required, as illustrated in the “safe harbors” section 54954.5.
  6. The Board shall publicly agree to reconvene its meeting in public after every closed session as required by § 54957.7, and to make the proper announcement as required by § 54957.1, before adjourning the meeting.

Ouch! Thus far, the GGUSD has seemed resistant to responding thoughtfully to the complaints I had raised after Dr. KimOanh Nguyen-Lam revealed the violations of December 15, 2009 by Mr. Lan Nguyen. Since Californians Aware has successfully challenged agencies failing to comply with the Brown Act across the state, maybe the board majority will reconsider.

I think tonight’s meeting will be a fun ride after all. I might just show up to see how they handle this “distraction.”

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