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Original post made
on May 17, 2011
There is no doubt that the Brown Act requires that each meeting AGENDA shall provide for public comment both before a Closed Session and before an elected body acts on any matter within its jurisdiction.
Here is the guidance on this issue from the California Attorney General:
"Every agenda for a regular meeting shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the legislative body on any item under the subject matter jurisdiction of the body. With respect to any item which is already on the agenda, or in connection with any item which the body will consider pursuant to the exceptions
contained in section 54954.2(b), the public must be given the opportunity to comment before or during the legislative body's consideration of the item. (§ 54954.3(a)."
The phrase 'every AGENDA shall provide..." is unambiguous. Simply inviting public comment during the meeting does NOT meet this standard.
Terry Thygesen, said that while conducting reference checks she had been impressed by the "breadth and depth of support (he) has" within the school community "at all levels."
I guess all levels doesn't include the opinion of Mountain View teachers. Here is their opinion by way of a vote:
"We are concerned with the way the Board of Trustees appears to have handled the breach of professional conduct by the superintendent," said Gloria Valdez, president of the local chapter of the California Teacher's Association, reading from a prepared statement.
She said the statement represented the "overwhelming majority" of teachers and that she had spoken with teachers at each of the district's nine schools.
The union's statement implored trustees to "immediately draft and implement a policy" in regards to the "professional working environment between a supervisor and the persons supervised."
From: Peter Carpenter
Date: May 17, 2011 5:46:58 PM PDT
To: MPCSD BOARD BOARD
Subject: Cure and Correct demand regarding your agendas
Dear School Board,
Your meeting agenda for April 27, 2011 violated the Brown Act because it failed to provide opportunities for the public to speak to items that were on that agenda. Your consistent disregard for the Brown Act is an insult to the citizens whom you serve and is a violation of your Oath of Office to support the laws of the State of California.
Any actions taken on items where the public was not advised in advance in the published agenda of their right to comment on that specific item are therefore also null and void.
Here is the California Attorney General's guidance on this matter:
Every agenda for a regular meeting shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the legislative body on any item under the subject matter jurisdiction of the body. With respect to any item which is already on the agenda, or in connection with any item which the body will consider pursuant to the exceptions contained in section 54954.2(b), the public must be given the opportunity to comment before or during the legislative body's consideration of the item. (§ 54954.3(a)."
The phrase 'every AGENDA shall provide..." is unambiguous.
I recommend that the School Board follow the practice of other local governments and add a statement at the beginning of each Closed Session and Regular Agenda that states that public comment on each item on the agenda is permitted before the Board votes on that matter. I think you will appreciate that a citizen who is unfamiliar with the Board's practice regarding public comments would not be able to surmise from your agendas that public comment was permitted on each item on your agenda - as is required by the law.
Here is the way in which the Fire Board agenda complies with section 54954.3 (a):
PUBLIC COMMENT #1
Under Public Comment #1, the public may address the Board on any item on the Closed Session Agenda. Each speaker may address the Board once under Public Comment for a limit of three minutes. The filing of speaker cards is not mandatory, but is helpful in creating an accurate record.
PUBLIC COMMENT #2
Under Public Comment #2, the public may address the Board on any subject not listed on the Agenda. Each speaker may address the Board for a limit of three minutes. The filing of speaker cards is not mandatory, but is helpful in creating an accurate record. The Board can not act on items not on the agenda and therefore the Board cannot respond to non-agenda issues brought up under Public Comment other than to provide general information.
The public may address the Board on any subject listed on the Regular Agenda. Each speaker may address the Board once for a limit of three minutes. The filing of speaker cards is not mandatory, but is helpful in creating an accurate record. Each speaker will be called upon to speak by the President when the item is heard.
PUBLIC COMMENT #3
If unable to address the Board under Public Comment #1 and 2, the public may address the Board on any subject. Each speaker may address the Board for a limit of three minutes. The filing of speaker cards is not mandatory, but is helpful in creating an accurate record. The Board cannot act on items not on the agenda and therefore the Board cannot respond to non-agenda issues brought up under Public Comment other than to provide general information.
The Board must therefore "Cure and Correct'' these violations within 30 days or it may be subject to legal action.
Peter F. Carpenter
It is obvious by the board's action the members hired who they wanted, and they all did it with one eye open and one eye closed. Only time will tell the outcome.
Regardless of Mr. Ghysels' possible attributes, his indiscretion and lack of professionalism should have been enough to create serious doubts for the board members. In some ways they are no better than he is in their judgment abilities. Despite the board's support of him, Mr. Ghysel starts his job with a cloud over his head and a reputation I doubt he will be able to dispel.
Let's not lose sight of the issue.
The school board conducted its deliberations in secret, decided on their candidate and did it without ANY public input.
Yes, they went through the motions of a brief public input AFTER they decided on their new superintendent. It was a disingenuous and dishonest act and it was disrespectful to the public they are supposed to serve and represent.
If this appointment turns out to be flawed (and expensive), they have only themselves to blame.
Do we REALLY think ANY superintendent, in the entire state of California at this point in time, are going to to receive a unanimous endorsement by "the teachers" aka teacher's union? Give me a break. I would want my superintendent to be feared by teachers, fearful that their crazy tenures may be watered down, their huge potential benefits and pensions decreased, and God forbid be held accountable to do their job. It's a very tough job to be a superintendent these days, one of the toughest jobs out there. I have the utmost respect for a superintendent that is tough and can handle these issues, Mr.Ghysels seems to be one of those types. Furthermore, can we not trust our elected officials to do their jobs? Or, do we have to have Mr. Carpenter rant on and on about the Brown Act again? Obviously, it was SO important to make sure the public had a chance to voice their concerns, there were SO many people that showed up to voice them! Not! Let it go Peter, they made their decision, if they did not do a good job with it, they get voted out of office, that's how the system works. I know you like spending tax payers money (aka your pet Fire District), but this is a case where we shouldn't be spending extra money to defend this decision. Keep the lawyers out of it.
"it was SO important to make sure the public had a chance to voice their concerns, there were SO many people that showed up to voice them!"
When the School Board illegally leaves the opportunity for public comment before their closed session off the agenda why would anybody show up?????
Guess why they left the public comment opportunity off that agenda.
And it worked.
And they then had an illegal secret ballot which ended up in their appointing a person about whom they had not given the public the opportunity to speak before they made their decision.
Why not just let the School Board do whatever it wants on every issue?
Why even have School Board meetings?
Why bother with a democracy anyway?
You totally missed the point. The MV union was speaking out against his conflict of interest and nothing else. I guess you think teachers are just plain idiots and superintendents that can't recognize a conflict of interest are a good thing for taxpayers and the voting public. Believe it or not, conflicts or interest (read corruption) have cost this city, state, and country billions if not trillions. It's money out of your pocket and lost opportunities for those not privy to the information or favors with a closed system protected by a conflict of interest. It's pretty simple. Public employees are expected to be held accountable when they avoid conflicts of interest. Get educated. Trying googling the issue if it helps you figure it out. And then take the valuable lesson in civic responsibility offered by Mr. Carpenter.
should read, "when they DON'T avoid conflicts of interest."
The board obviously did not do "due diligence" when researching Ghysels' past. The truth came out, and they're left looking like fools. I agree that the way they handled the entire affair is in violation of the Brown Act as well. Incompetence all around. This will prove to be a costly mistake. To quote a Mountain View poster's comment I feel is appropriate here:
"I used this article as a talking point for my middle school children regarding "character". I told them that Mr. Ghysels did NOT deserve another job paying nearly 1/4 of 1 million dollars (public money, folks, your tax dollars), with responsibility for thousands of innocent elementary school children, because he has shown he lacks character. He disappointed his family, his constituents, his wife, and the 4m400 kids and thousands of families of MVWhisman public elementary school district by lying about and covering up an affair WHILE MARRIED with a district employee ALSO MARRIED whom he oversaw. He did not admit to this affair until caught. Ms. Mizell was promoted to a higher performing school by her lover. This is a concrete and public display of lack of ethical judgement and an abuse of public responsibility. This guy should be running an adult ed program in the backwaters of Mississippi IF THAT making 30 grand and driving a beat-up Camaro. But hey, the MP board must have known all that, and not cared if their kids get ZEROS on their character exams when they graduate!!! "
I think you are missing MY point. This constant battering ram of making sure everything is scrutinized 10 fold, and making sure the slightest little move is "transparent" is making the process extremely slow, sluggish and expensive. We elected School Board Members to do a job, let them do the job. No wonder it is very difficult to find people to run for these positions when you have constant banter about how they didn't let the negative bloggers know about their favorite little rule. It's an absolute time waster, if you don't want them, run yourself or vote them out of office. You are over exaggerating this issue, making too many dramatic statements and continuing to clog an agenda that is already too long because of your constant need to approve everything. Ludicrous. By the way, I love Shameful talking about wasting dollars over conflicts of interest, and in the same blog tells us about public employees are to be held accountable. Is he talking about his teacher's union that make deals behind closed doors, or public city employees that make deals behind closed doors? Talk about "wasting dollars"! Wow. This state is bleeding by the billions over these closed door meetings, primarily with these closed door union deals, and THIS issue to these bloggers isn't even given a mention. Talk about losing focus!
Teacher's Opinion -
Yes, I also want my elected officials to "do the job" and if I don't like their performance, I don't have to vote for them. But part of their job is accepting public input in advance of decisions, conducting their deliberations in public and obeying laws.
These officials have not only taken Brown Act training, they have taken an oath to uphold the law. They know perfectly well that they are not allowed to have informal, unofficial agreements or understandings in advance of a public hearing.
While you may deride it as a "little rule," some of us believe that transparency is essential to good government.
As I've said, one day they may decide to build an apartment building next to your home or chop down a heritage tree in your neighborhood. Perhaps when you are on the receiving end of poor government, you'll think differently.
@Teacher's Opinion -- could you enlighten us at what point are elected leaders expected to follow the rules?
Rules, like laws, are set to provide a standard of governance and/or because people at one time abused common decency, civility and common sense. You don't get to pick and choose which rules and laws you obey.
Your comment about getting people to run for these positions. It's no wonder the community has an often negative view of its leaders given some of their conduct. All one has to do is look at some of our local city councils. As POGO has indicated, all elected and senior staff leaders are required to take Brown Act and other compliance training.
Guys, do what you must. Continue to waste valuable resources, energy, money and thought, over an issue that was voted on 5-0. That's how things get done in a timely manner, just keep arguing and arguing for more transparency (the definition of course is somewhat debatable) and let's continue to see nothing done on the council level, the school board level etc. Your example of heritage trees and apartment buildings are again taken out of context and exaggerated. What a time waster.
"over an issue that was voted on 5-0. That's how things get done in a timely manner,"
In secret and without public input - that is NOT how things should be done.
I suspect you will think this a "non-issue" until your particular ox is being gored in an illegal manner. Then I fully expext you to appear in this forum screaming your head off about how you were "wronged." The problem is that there are those that will take your attitude and say "screw you" it was a 5-0 vote and that's how things get done.
The most efficient form of government is a dictatorship.
It's easier to run the hotel without those pesky guests messing everything up.
Get educated. The board acted in violation of the law. See the following link from the Los Angeles Times:
Are there any red flags I can look out for?
The most basic requirement is that the agency reports its closed sessions correctly and cites the correct government code, the attorneys said. "If you see a body going into a closed session and there's no indication as to why that's an immediate problem," Jenkins said. Moreover, members of the public must be given an opportunity to speak before the closed session begins, Newton said.
Another way for citizens to monitor closed session meetings is to pay attention to what a council reports after each session, Newton said. "If there are a lot of closed sessions without any action reported out, that would be a red flag," he said.
Both attorneys suggested that citizens keep an eye out for personnel evaluations conducted in closed sessions. Jenkins said frequent or ongoing evaluation of a top staff member, such as a city manager, would be unusual. Newton said that any time a body moves to make an appointment or to hire a new employee, there must be a public discussion of that person's compensation. "There has to be an open and public discussion about compensation," he said.
Great post and excellent link from Let the Sun Shine.
As Mr. Carpenter has previously noted, just because a body CAN go into closed session, doesn't mean the SHOULD. There are many issues that are discussed in private that could just as easily be done in public.
As the previous post noted, let the sun shine. Transparent government is good government.
Interesting twist in events -- the Milpitas school board reprimanded its superintendent for having an affair with a principal. Given the superintendent was set to retire in June the board opted not to incur legal expenses and terminate him.
I'll bet he won't be able to get a job unless Menlo Park has one for him.....let's ask our school board.
Here's the link to the article -- Web Link.
You know, something just doesn't square with this guy. The board must have been under some sort of pressure from some really twisted power and influence circles to have fallen for this guy.
For example, he moonlights as a consultant with a firm called Brandon Partners.
His bio states this:
"In faster-paced, more demand-ing times with a bright spotlight on ethical behavior, Maurice teaches corporate and government leaders how to go beyond ideas to make a personal and organizational impact.
Maurice also worked as Chief Learning Officer with Groundswell, Inc. where he delivered training and executive coaching in leadership, relationship management"
So his specialty is on making a personal and organizational impact when there is a spotlight on ethical behavior? Relationship management? Where do you begin with that one given his display of ethics and relationship management when running Mountain View?
His bio also states he is the author of numerous articles published in various journals.
I checked through all the on-line catalogs available at Stanford, and those numerous articles published in various journals don't exist other that a few newsletter type essays, but definitely no refereed or serious scholarship. It's all flash-in-the-pan hype.
This is exactly what happens when citizens let their elected officials operate in secrecy - secret ballots, no public comment. We get what we deserve.
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