Chino Board Corrects Some Brown Act Violations

OPEN MEETINGS

By Anne Lowe

Chino Valley Unified School District trustees corrected Brown Act violations at their November 4 board meeting by disclosing facts related to items discussed in closed sessions throughout the past year.  But challenger Richard McKee says some compliance items are still due.

Californians Aware Vice President Richard McKee demanded the corrections after the school board failed to report to the public information regarding anticipated litigation that was discussed in closed sessions.

As reported in the Pasadena Star News:

The Chino Valley Unified school board corrected the issue by disclosing facts and circumstances about anticipated litigation.

The district will also place proper Brown Act wording on subjects involving anticipated litigation in its agendas, rather than a previous wording used to describe existing litigation.

"I'm pleased at the reaction of the district," said Richard McKee, CalAware's vice president for Open Government Compliance.

"It was genuine, and I think it will certainly help the public know what is going to be discussed in closed session. From the superintendent's perspective, it was simply an oversight and a misunderstanding. He and the office staff did not understand their requirement under the Brown Act. No attorney stood up and said, `You need to do this differently,' and that is the frustrating part."

[Superintendent Wayne] Joseph agreed the district should immediately correct the errors after meeting with McKee last month.

Among the potential litigations considered by the district on Thursday were matters related to a demand letter from School Reward Card, Inc., a demand regarding Oxford Preparatory Academy charter school facilities and fees, the receipt of a tort claim and a claim concerning unpaid employee wages.

Although pleased with the district's response, McKee said a need for correction still remains. He plans to notify the district of mistakes in the proper presentation of information about the tort claim and the demand letter.

McKee said the district needed to provide public access to the demand letter, which falls under another Brown Act requirement section than the one presented Thursday. The provided section, McKee said, refers to situations involving official memos stemming from the oral threat of litigation, not demand letters.

The district report also said the tort claim would not be made available to the public. McKee said it should be according to the Brown Act.

"It doesn't make any sense that they've received a claim and to turn around and say the claim will not be available," he said. "This kind of stuff doesn't make it clear to the public."

Spokeswoman Julie Gobin said the district is awaiting McKee's letter and is open to continued correction.

"We'll take a look at it and see what it is that he's asking for," Gobin said. "Up to this point, we've been completely cooperative and responsive. We will continue in that manner."

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