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Brown Act Violations

Original post made by Mary Gilles, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park, on Dec 14, 2010

Would someone who knows the answer and can reference the answer please tell us what are the consequences to Brown Act violations? After tonight's city council meeting on the topic, it wasn't clear if any more action was going to be taken and whether or not the public is entitled to know exactly what went on. There was mention in the paper last week of an intermediary and I, for one, would like to know who that was. It was not clear what type of investigation, if any, was going to take place, going forward. Is a sincere apology from Councilwoman Fergusson enough? If there are no consequences to Brown Act violations, then why do we go around pretending like a violation is serious. What is so serious about it if there isn't a serious consequence?

It seemed as though the council members were all wanting this to go away. Well, yes, it would be nice if it never happened and if the hullabaloo would just stop. But, if it just goes away, and we, the public, are left with unanswered questions, does anyone care? What, then, is the point of the Brown Act? Do we really need to know if council members are talking and making deals outside of the public purview with respect to city business? I care and I think so. Do you, Menlo Park?

Comments (21)

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Posted by trying to be helpful
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 14, 2010 at 10:36 pm

The recission of the vote on December 7th for mayor and vice mayor satisfied the legal requirement of the Brown Act for undoing the damage (as such) of the alleged Brown Act Violation. The San Mateo County District Attorney will not investigate or prosecute, as there is nothing now to investigate.

The matter is closed. The public has no entitlement in regards to additional information the alleged Brown Act Violations. The public actually had no entitlement, or legal claim, to any additional information not volunteered by council members during the investigation by City Attorney Bill McClure.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 15, 2010 at 6:08 am

Last night's council action dealt only with 'curing and correcting' the illegal vote for mayor which took place on 7 Dec. The 7 Dec vote was illegal because prior to that vote Ms.Fergusson, both by a finding of the City Attorney and by her own admission violated the Brown Act. The Council actions last night addresses only the 'cure and correction' of the illegal vote and did not address in any way Ms. Fergusson's culpability. I have therefore reiterated my request that the District Attorney investigate this matter and that the DA and the courts, not this forum or public opinion, determine the appropriate remedy. We are a nation of laws and we cannot turn a blind eye to this violation of the peoples' trust.

********************************


Mr. Serrato,
The Menlo Park Council has nullified the election of Mayor which occurred on 7 December and elected a new Mayor. The Council took NO action to discipline, censure or even note the Brown Act violation by Ms. Fergusson that necessitated this nullification action.

Since the City Attorney and Ms. Fergusson have both confirmed that she violated the Brown Act and in order to send a clear message to all of the other elected and appointed officials in San Mateo County, I urge you to proceed with your review of this matter including the possibility of filing criminal charges and the seeking of judicial oversight of Ms. Fergusson's future official actions.


Respectfully,

Peter Carpenter


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2010 at 6:32 am

Mary, you asked,

"If there are no consequences to Brown Act violations, then why do we go around pretending like a violation is serious. What is so serious about it if there isn't a serious consequence?"

This is where our District Attorney comes into play. If we San Mateo County have a DA who refuses to investigate/prosecute Brown Act violations as we have had for the last 28 years, there will never be any serious consequences.

Brown Act violations are Very serious, We need a DA who thinks so.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 15, 2010 at 7:31 am

Unfortunately, the Brown Act is a paper tiger. No one enforces it and the politicians know it. So, they just go on their merry way violating the act with impunity. The DA has no interest in pursuing it, so it will never change.


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Posted by Tim Wulff
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Menlo Voter:

The actual truth is that there are many legal remedies and powerful ones at that which are available to citizens to effect governmental change.

One is Motion for an Order Of Mandate.

This is placed in Superior Court and is a Court Order for a miscreant official to follow the law.

Failure to comply produces a Hearing to Show Cause for Contempt.

I'm certain there addition and related actions that can be taken.

In addition, there is the process of Quo Warranto.

Again, I'm not an attorney and I only know the tiniest bit, but there are many powers granted to the motivated and funded citizenry.

The problem in ignorance and apathy. Not available venues of recourse.

It's why my message to the public here has become uncharacteristically and undesirably (to myself) rude.

Stop whining about how you can't do anything and get the hell to work researching and organizing and mobilizing the manpower and money to damn well get it done!!

You're complaining? Look in that reflective device on the wall at home.

PS. I still respect the hell out of you all. Please forgive me for my strident language. I'm having patience issues.


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Posted by Brown This!
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 15, 2010 at 11:25 pm

If the Brown Act was so great, why don't any of the other 49 states out there use it?


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 16, 2010 at 10:05 am

Brown This -

You may want to do just a little bit of homework before you pose such an absurd question.

All fifty states have similar laws that govern public access to the actions of elected officials.

Web Link


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 16, 2010 at 10:06 am

I thought such an absurd question deserved an equally absurd web link.

Here's the real McCoy.

Web Link


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Posted by Brown This!
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 16, 2010 at 2:09 pm

POGO:

My comment was specifically about the Brown Act, not public meeting laws in general.

Of course you want public meeting laws, but reasonable/rational/sane ones - not the appropriately named Brown (as in s---) Act.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 16, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Many states followed California's lead when the Brown Act was enacted over 50 years ago - the names of the laws vary from state to state but the intent of returning government to the people and taking it out of back rooms was the same. If you want back room government then there are still lots of places that you could relocate to - I doubt that you would enjoy living in any of them.


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Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Dec 17, 2010 at 7:30 am

It is difficult but not impossible to get public officials to do the right thing when challenged.
Tim said:
"The actual truth is that there are many legal remedies and powerful ones at that which are available to citizens to effect governmental change. One is Motion for an Order Of Mandate."
In 1986, I successfully served a Writ of Mandate (In Pro Per) upon Mark Church and March Fong Eu. They were ordered to accept the signature of a registered voter who used a P.O. Box as address on my Nominating Petitions for Tom Lanto's Congressional District seat in 1986. That one signature was all I needed to get my name on the ballot in the Republican Primary. I had the assistance of Brad Sparks (California Republican Assembly) in many hours of research at the Berkeley Law Library. County Counsel argued against my Writ, but Judge Bollhoffner ruled in my favor.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 17, 2010 at 9:39 am

The Brown Act IS a sunshine law and most states have them in one form or another.

It means that elected officials have to conduct official deliberations in public and with an opportunity for public input - no secret, back room deals.

Personally, I think that's a good thing.


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Posted by looking on
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 17, 2010 at 11:27 am

I find it a very sad state of affairs that an Atherton Resident, Peter Carpenter, seems to have to be leading the charge to have Kelly Fergusson investigated. She did violate the Brown act, yet to date, this council and seemingly all residents of Menlo Park, are just sitting back and not calling for her resignation and full prosecution for breaking the law.

Cline in a statement said there is plenty of "integrity" on the council. IS THAT TRUE?

Cline willingly wanted and accepted being the Mayor, fully against the policy that he rallied so hard for, when Fergusson was apparently gong to be Mayor.

[Portion removed; unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing violate terms of use.]
The investigation conducted thus far, by McClure is totally inadequate

Where are DuBoc and Winkler, and others who certainly are at odds with Fergusson. They aren't joining any effort to have her face any kind of punishment.

Fergusson should be considered an out-cast pure and simple. She did what she did with full knowledge of the law. If she had any sense of "integrity" she would resign --- lot of luck in that direction.

Time now for the "recall-ferggie" movement to get into full gear.


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Posted by halle
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 17, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Fergusson should have to pay the consequences and Cline did not keep in line by not electing Andy Cohen. That's a loss to us. Interestingly, I didn't vote for any ot "the bloc".

A sdlap on the hand is not enough. Don't talk of integrity if you are apparently not doing it, b ut of course talking ab out it, so the council looks good.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Dec 17, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Cline also said that they were volunteers, something lost on this group.
[This thread has degenerated into personal attacks, which violate terms of use. Please stick to the issue.]


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 17, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Cline in a statement said there is plenty of "integrity" on the council.

Sounds like breathtaking self-serving praise, Mr. Mayor. Impressive redirect... even for a politician!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 17, 2010 at 1:44 pm

[Post removed. Personal attack.]


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 17, 2010 at 1:46 pm

[Post removed. Terms of use.]


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 17, 2010 at 2:03 pm

[Post removed, terms of use.]


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Posted by Just Wondering
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 17, 2010 at 3:18 pm

[Post removed; stick to the topic]


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Posted by I've written the D.A.
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 17, 2010 at 3:31 pm

I'd put my real name down, but I'm afraid of what may happen if I do! But, saying that, I'm a resident of Menlo Park and I HAVE written to the D.A. to request that he investigate.

Right now, I don't trust any on our council. And, until I hear from them, under penalty of perjury, I can't. So, please write to the D.A. It may help us regain trust in our local officials.

I'd also like to implore our now under-a-cloud council (thank you Ms. Fergusson), don't go behind closed doors anymore. I for one want to see ALL your negotiations in regards to employee contracts. I also want to see that your action will match your words when it comes to a vigorous defense of Measure L.

I want to trust; but can I?


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