Out Loud: September 29, 2016: John Cook vs. Brown Act

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I’m on vacation, so this week’s column comes from Mr. Clark.

The acting president of the Idyllwild Water District board, John Cook, made a surprising move on Monday.

He sent an email to fellow board directors Steve Kunkle and June Rockwell suggesting that the three of them meet for what he called “a study session” in order “to create a ‘to do’ list of things that need to be done, studied or changed.” He then suggested that they all three could meet with staff during the day and that the three directors could meet again in the evening to discuss IWD matters.

Such meetings, of course, would be in violation of that portion of the California Government Code known as the Brown Act.

Implementation of Cook’s suggestion would violate the Brown Act by having quorum meetings outside of properly noticed, regular or special public board meetings. In fact, Cook’s very email to his other two fellow board members was in itself a violation of the Brown Act on his part — a communication among a quorum of IWD directors about public business outside of the public view.

The special irony here is that at the last public IWD meeting, Cook was the sole board member holding out for a special election of interim directors in March, instead of allowing the remaining board members to appoint interim directors who would serve until August, which California law permits. Directors Kunkle and Rockwell urged the appointment by the board of interim directors as soon as possible. But Cook insisted that the public, not just the remaining three board members, should choose the two interim board members. Yet he’s now suggesting that a quorum of the board meet to do the district’s business outside of the public’s view.

Maybe he feels he can suspend the Brown Act because of the dire situation IWD now finds itself in — that desperate times require desperate measures, including violating the law. But chaotic times are exactly when law is needed most.

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  1. I understand that the IWD Board members receive training on the requirements of the Brown Act. Mr. Cook is an inactive attorney. Why would Mr. Cook willfully violate the provisions of the Brown Act?

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