SECTION III - VALIDATION ACTION
A School Board may file a Validation Action asking the Court to validate its decision to use Bond funds for a purpose other than the one stated in the original Bond Referendum. This Validation Action, approved by the court, prevents members of the public from later suing the public agency to overturn such an action.
The Buellton Union School District (BUSD) voters approved the passage of a special bond measure (F92) in April 1992 authorizing the expenditure of $3,600,000 for the purchase of property and construction of a new school.
Resolution 96-3 was passed on July 19, 1995 by the Board ordering "certain improvements to be made from the proceeds of the Bonds previously issued by the BUSD and the filing of a Validation Action."15
The Complaint for Validation was filed on July 28, 1995.26 The order granting default judgment was approved on October 24, 1995 because no party had appeared to contest the matter in court. This legal action, "Validation Action by a Public Agency" (CCP Section 860), was taken by the Board to validate "ordering improvements to an existing school and the acquisition of land as the site for a future school building from the proceeds of the Bonds".37 This was in lieu of the Bond approved purchase of property and construction of a new school. 48
When a Validation Action is initiated in Superior Court, the public must be notified by publication of the Summons in a newspaper of general circulation, and the Summons must be posted within the boundaries of the agency. The Summons shall be directed to "all persons interested in the matter of (specifying the matter)."59
Interviews with more than thirty `interested' BUSD residents indicated that not one had seen the posted Summons (which was placed at the public library, city hall, and the school district office).60 None of the interviewees, including many people who were regular attendees at Board meetings and/or parents of children at Jonata School, had received a written notice or any other communication about the pending court proceeding.
The Grand Jury reviewed the "Proof of Publication" and the "Summons" that were posted in the matter of "Buellton Union School District vs. All Persons Interested in Summons SM 092783."71 The Grand Jury found the language of the Summons to be ambiguous and misleading. No specific defendant was identified nor did any individual receive any information by mail.
The people interviewed by the Grand Jury stated that if the Summons for the Validation proceedings was directed to them, then it should have been delivered to them. At the very least, they would expect to be notified if they were going to be sued by the plaintiff (BUSD). Also, many stated that they would hesitate to reply officially to the Summons for fear of becoming part of a court case wherein their wages, money or property could be taken without further action by the court.
Although the letter of the law may have been followed, the taxpayers of the District were not informed about the actions of the Board.
FINDING AND RECOMMENDATIONS
FINDING 1: The issuance and posting of the Summons, giving minimum public notice of the Validation Hearing, used summarizing and technical language. The effect was that neither interested parties nor the public were able to realize what subject was being Noticed. The interested parties and the public were not given adequate opportunity to understand, question or contest the justification for changing the use of the voter
approved Bond Funds.
RECOMMENDATION 1a: The Santa Barbara Grand Jury requests that the elected state representatives introduce legislation to change the language of the Validation Act in the following manne
(i). The Public Agency bringing validation
proceedings shall give notice of the pendency of the proceedings by mail
to all registered voters within its boundaries and to the County District
(ii). A Validation Action cannot be imposed when the action is a substantial change to an issue previously passed by the required majority of the voting public.
(iii). The District Attorney or a designated representative of that office shall represent the voters at the hearing of the "Validation Action By Public Agency".
(iv). Any substantial change in the use of Bond Funds must be voted on by the voting public.
RECOMMENDATION 1b: The Board of Supervisors should:
A - direct its lobbyist to elicit support in
the legislature for the above
recommendation numbers one through four.
B - direct its California State Association
of Counties (CSAC)
representative to obtain CSAC support for the proposed changes in the
C - request that local representatives to the
legislature support changes
one through four.
RECOMMENDATION 1c: The
1996-1997 Grand Jury should follow through to assure that the proposed
changes are presented to our elected officials.
Barbara County Board of Supervisors Response
1 5 See Exhibit D - Resolution 96-3
2 6 Complaint for Validation (SM 092783)
3 7 See Exhibit J - Order Granting Default Judgment
4 8 See Exhibit B - Buellton Union School District - Sample Ballot
5 9 See Exhibit E - Proof of Publication and Summons
6 0 Ibid.
7 1 Ibid.