I start by wishing you a Happy New Year and diving right into a favorite subject, as all of you who have read this column over the years — even before I retired in 2009 — know very well: open government.
How does a public board have discussions about something as important as a tax measure outside of the public ear without violating a law specifically enacted to prevent that sort of thing. Why, claim them as “informal” discussions. I mean, since it’s too preliminary to share with the public, shouldn’t the law allow the board to chat amongst themselves before placing a tax measure on the agenda?
What do you think? Does the Brown Act allow “informal” discussions outside of meetings? Well, if you haven’t read this column over the years or, as a publicly elected official you haven’t taken Brown Act or ethics training, you really might believe it does.
And that’s what the Idyllwild Fire commissioners apparently believe, too, according to one commissioner’s admission to this at last week’s meeting. (See story, page 1.)
Obviously, no Brown Act training is forthcoming over at the station there. The training requires no travel. Brown Act, as well as ethics and California Public Records Act training courses, are offered online and I believe that training would significantly reduce IFPD’s attorney expenses — now costing taxpayers in the thousands each year.
What’s it going to take for this public agency to obey laws designed to protect our taxpayers?
Maybe a third grand jury investigation in less than two years? The IFPD president revealed recently that the commissioners and Finance Committee all had been subpoened by another grand jury. Why am I not surprised?