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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Oversight Committee Violates the Brown Act as it Moves to Support the Brown Act

'We Had to Violate the Brown Act in Order to
 Protect It'

Does the Oversight Committee Need an Oversight Committee?

Responding to a Tattler expos√©, the Measure J bond Citizens Oversight Committee of the Emery School District, violated the California Brown Act accountability law Tuesday when, without a quorum, it moved to abandon its earlier plans to jettison the constraints of Brown Act regulations.  The committee, who’s state sanctioned job it is to watch and hold accountable the School Board as they spend $95 million in Emeryville taxpayer funds, dialed back a host of this and other illegal and unseemly proposals after the Tattler story posted on Monday.   Central to the Tattler story was a planned roll back of conflict of interest policy meant to stop committee members from unduly benefitting as a result of their committee work.
With only three legitimate attending members Tuesday night, the committee, without a quorum, was legally required to adjourn the meeting according to the Brown Act.  However, moving to support the Brown Act that they had previously placed on their agenda to disregard, the committee proceed to violate the Act it meant to support.  The committee will now follow the Brown Act, they say.
The irony of the situation was not acknowledged by any attending members, the Superintendent of the Schools or the bond consultant paid to advise the committee, both of whom who were also in attendance.

One of the components of the Brown Act makes it clear that the only legitimate action any bond oversight committee can make without a quorum is adjournment.  The quorum provisions of the Brown Act are something the committee members and even the paid staff professionals are unaware of.  After the Superintendent announced a quorum was lacking, instead of adjourning the meeting, the committee voted to forge ahead and make decisions on committee policy and other topics, but only in a “recommendation” capacity in an attempt to satisfy the Brown Act.  The Brown Act does not permit that and the whole meeting was in violation.

A central complaint of the Monday Tattler story was a highlighting of the committee’s attempt to erase existing Sacramento mandated conflict of interest policy that requires committee members to wait for two years until they are permitted to bid on or do (Emery) School District jobs.  The committee, feeling the pressure from the Tattler story, agreed to back off and maintain the two year waiting period but not before the consultant weighed in on the value of the deregulation scheme.  Matthew Kolker of Government Financial Strategies, a private government consulting firm, told the attendees the idea behind nixing the conflict of interest waiting period was to “streamline the process”, presumably for those committee members who would like to profit off the District using their built up associations with colleagues.  Asked how the public would benefit by the streamlining, neither the consultant nor the committee members ventured an opinion.

The committee expressed their frustration in getting the members to dutifully attend meetings, making quorums difficult to achieve.  It was conjectured by committee members that because the District had already spent all but approximately $20 million of the original $95 million of Measure J bond money, meetings are less consequential and therefore less compelling to many members. Mr Kolker suggested by removing the conflict of interest laws that bounds committee members, perhaps the district could more easily draw potential new member interest.

After the Tattler reported on numerous violations of the Brown Act, the local media picking up the story, a crash program of Brown Act instructional meetings were conducted by a contrite Emery Unified.  To no avail apparently.  The District continues to struggle with following or even understanding this important sunshine accountability law.

Should be posted in School District executive suites, conference rooms
and at all street entrances to the school district.  


  1. From Shirley Enomoto:

    i'm having trouble again commenting.
    please post this: the measure J oversight committee began with 17 members, including two students. who were the three legitimate members who attended the tuesday meeting?
    thanks for following up on this, brian.

    shirley enomoto

    1. The three members attending were Josh Simon, Miguel Dwin and Rodney Wong. A member called in from Barbados via speakerphone but hung up after I quoted the Brown Act's prohibition on phone in's from out of the country counting towards a quorum. As it turns out, four members wouldn't have counted as a quorum regardless, they need seven. I left the meeting wondering how many times the committee has met and illegally conducted business without a quorum when I wasn't there to check. I asked about that, but nobody would answer, including the Superintendent of the Schools.
      Thanks for commenting and I'll see if I can get the Tattler comment option fixed.