SECTION II - AVAILABILITY OF INFORMATION TO THE PUBLIC
The Ralph M. Brown Act was passed by the California Legislature in 1953 to assure that public business is conducted in open meetings and that those who might be interested in the operation of a Public Agency will be informed about pending actions which may affect them. This Act also protects the public from the abuse of power by its elected officials.
During Grand Jury initial interviews with members of the community, questions arose concerning certain actions of the Board of Trustees of the BUSD regarding possible violations of the Brown Act. Additional irregularities relating to this act also surfaced during the Grand Jury's review of the Board minutes from meetings dated July 1994 to December 1996. As a result of these findings which appeared to be Brown Act violations, the information was referred to the office of the District Attorney for its review and disposition.
Following an investigation by the District Attorney's Office, a letter dated December 2, 199610 was sent to the School Board outlining substantive and procedural violations of the Brown Act by the BUSD. Excerpts from that letter follow:
"members of the Board of Trustees have frequently
violated the Brown Act; and these violations are indeed continuing, despite
citizen efforts to urge the Board to discontinue the violations. The violations
constitute either extreme indifference, gross incompetence, or blatant
disregard of the Brown Act's provisions. None of the above are justified
by good intentions or a desire to expedite Board business. Most troubling
are the number of occasions on which the Board violated not only the Brown
Act's procedural requirements, but also the blatant, cavalier, and almost
contemptuous attitude taken by some Board members toward the Brown Act's
substantive provisions which are designed to promote citizen participation,
public awareness, and open and honest government ."21
"It is clear these same types of Brown Act violations have occurred in past years when the Board considered important issues, such as the condemnation suit concerning the N & G property, the functional equivalency and validation suit, and the expansion and renovation of Jonata school. It is precisely because of these illegal closed sessions that many members of the public were unaware of what the Board was doing." 32 (emphasis added)
The letter from the District Attorney covers the
Brown Act violations and the decision by the District Attorney to "seek
injunctive relief pursuant to Section 54960" 43
The "STIPULATION AND FINAL JUDGMENT: ORDER DIRECTING ISSUANCE OF WRIT OF MANDATE"54 reinforced the District Attorney's letter regarding changes to be made by the BUSD to bring it into compliance with the Brown Act.
FINDING AND RECOMMENDATIONS
FINDING 1: The Grand Jury concurs with the District Attorney that the BUSD Board of Trustees violations "...constitute either extreme indifference, gross incompetence, or blatant disregard of the Brown Act's provision."
RECOMMENDATION 1a: The
BUSD Board of Trustees should comply with the provisions of the Brown Act.
RECOMMENDATION 1b: The
District Attorney's Office should monitor the BUSD Board of Trustees' compliance
with the Brown Act.