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Monday, November 23, 2015

School Board President Holds Illegal Closed Door Meeting, Trustee To File Charges

Public Shut Out of Meeting Discussing 
$5 Million Public School Bond Money

School Board Member Patz Says Meeting Was Illegal

Emery Unified School District Board of Trustees member Christian Patz reports a serious violation of a 'sunshine' law known as the Brown Act meant to stop closed door back room meetings for elected public trustees when he observed three Board colleagues privately meeting with the Superintendent in his office before a regular public School Board meeting Wednesday evening.
Board President John Affeldt
Mr Affeldt, an attorney, chaired 
the illegal Finance Committee meeting 
(or illegal Board Meeting,
take your pick).
Mr Patz indicated the three School Board members were likely discussing how to spend $5 million of public money to be obtained by the forthcoming sale of a new school bond for construction of the Emeryville Center of 'Community' Life.  At the School Board public meeting, conducted after the private illegal meeting Wednesday evening, Emery School Superintendent John Rubio admitted on camera that School Board President John Affeldt and Board members Melodi Dice and Donn Merriam met privately to discuss how to spend the school bond proceeds, an illegal action.  Mr Patz indicated he will take further action on this by notifying the Alameda County Board of Education and perhaps other authorities.

Responding to charges of impropriety from Board member Patz, President Affeldt flipped the charge and called Mr Patz' comments "inappropriate".  He explained he believed the private meeting was not a violation of the Brown Act because Board member Merriam was only there as an observer and he was not an active participant.  For the record, the Brown Act expressly forbids more than two Board members from privately meeting where School Board business is discussed, the matter of a member not speaking is immaterial to the law.
Board member Merriam, for his part responded to Mr Patz' allegations with a quotable quote, "For you to say I've violated the Brown Act with no evidence whatsoever, just what you see?  I can't condone that behavior, that insinuation."  Again, for the record, what Mr Patz saw was three Board members in a private closed door meeting where School District business was being discussed, a direct violation of the Brown Act.
Superintendent Rubio explained that such meetings in his office with more than two School Board members happen but they are "rare".  Mr Rubio added when the Board does privately meet (in violation of the Brown Act) they do so "very professionally".
Schools Superintendent John Rubio
Says illegal meetings take 
place in his office 'very rarely'.

The Emery Unified School District was the subject of an Alameda County Grand Jury investigation last year for not complying with the Brown Act in conducting meetings of its Citizens' Bond Oversight Committee.  The response from EUSD clearly showed the District received legal counsel on this issue, removing doubt that the District is now well versed in proper compliance with the Brown Act's requirements.

Mr Patz charged the Board Tuesday evening should not vote on the new school bond because the previous illegal discussion on the topic would automatically negate any vote the Board might take but President Affeldt, an attorney, proceeded on without regard to Mr Patz' warning, directing discussion and a vote approving the sale of the bond.

The Board approved the $5 million school bond 3-1 (Patz dissenting, Ashe absent).


  1. Wow! This is a big moment for this board. I can't see how this is going to end up working out well for Affeldt and the other two. Even my limited knowledge of the Brown act tells me this is illegal. And Affeldt is an attorney? No good, no good. Thanks to Christian Patz for this.

  2. The Brown Act is violated regularly in Emeryville government. You reported a great example here:

    California never prosecutes it so elected officials ignore it.

    1. Except the example you cite wasn't a Brown Act violation. Says who? Says the City Attorney who ruled so after receiving a citizen complaint you perhaps?

      For the uninitiated, Mr Anon is referring to a recent "Fight for $15" rally in Berkeley where 4 out of 5 Emeryville City Council members were in attendance. The Mayor, Ruth Atkin, even addressed the crowd, bragging about Emeryville's progressive minimum wage. The problem Mr Anon has with this accusation of his is that the Council merely stated that Emeryville has this new law. There was no discussion of business before the City. It's like if 4 Council members attended an arborist's club and the mayor announced Emeryville has a tree ordinance and about how progressive it is (which it is BTW). City Council members commonly attend the Mayor's State of the City Report...there's no Brown Act violation there either. Council members telling people about our minimum wage ordinance or our tree ordinance at public functions is not a Brown Act violation. If you disagree, you're free to take it to the Alameda County District Attorney. Good luck. And thanks for being concerned about Brown Act violations in our city. I hope you write a letter to the School District and express your concerns.