Categorized | Eel River Valley, Local

Humboldt County Fair Board Violates Brown Act– Repeatedly

 

Small Town Politics and Secrecy by Some Abound in Ferndale

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

From the February 14 print edition of The Ferndale Enterprise, reported by Editor Caroline Titus:

The Humboldt County Fair Association board of
fair4directors Monday night voted 16-1 to appoint ten-year board member Tim Renner to the position of interim board president until the end of this year.

Meanwhile, at a February 5 meeting of the board’s new ad hoc committee — charged with finding an interim fair manager and permanent fair manager after an 11-8 vote on January 28 not to renew 22-year fair manager Stuart Titus’ contract — it was announced that the board had
hired former Humboldt County Chief Administrative
Officer Loretta Nicklaus as its interim manager. 

However, on Friday, committee member Johanna Rodoni said that Nicklaus had declined the job.

fairBoard member (Jeff) Farley made the announcement at the beginning of the ad hoc meeting (on Monday, February 11).  The meeting, held at the fairgrounds, was not open to the public and is not governed by the state’s open meeting laws.  A temporary advisory committee composed of less than a quorum of a legislative body that serves a limited or single purpose and will be dissolved once a specific task is complete, is not subject to the Brown Act.

Farley had notified KIEM News Channel 3 in an advance telephone call that the meeting was not open to the public, according to reporter Kelly May.  He informed The (Ferndale) Enterprise’s reporter at the beginning of the meeting
that it was closed, asked the reporter to leave, and handed out a document
signed by him as “acting secretary of the board.”

Under public comment, Ferndale resident John Maxwell spoke.  He clarified that he was also a member of several public agencies, including the Ferndale City Council, but that his comments were being made as a public citizen.  Maxwell said after attending the fair board’s special meeting the prior week, he felt that the board was “unprepared” for changes in leadership and recruitment of a new manager.

“This board should have countered Mr. Titus’ with
fair3a one-year contract,” Maxwell said. “It would have been a lot cleaner in the end.  “There’s a lot of bells you can’t unring,” he said, urging the board to operate with “professionalism and transparency.”

“Additionally, I hope this board can act with recognition of all aspects of the Brown Act,” he said, adding that he hopes that members consider whether it is in the best interest of the board to have the “venom and vitriol created in this room spill over into other public agency
meetings.”

Maxwell was referring to fair board members’ behavior at recent Ferndale City Council meetings.  Maxwell said “by fair time” he hopes that “all the wounds have healed” and that a recognition of Titus’ 22 years receives unanimous support from the board.

Before the board began discussion of the one agenda item — that of approving the nominating committee’s actions — board member Dave Mogni said he wanted to discuss appointing a board member to a volunteer position to supervise the fair’s office staff since Titus was on vacation until the end of his contract, February 28.

Rodoni said that since the issue was not on the agenda, per the Brown Act, it could not be discussed or action taken.  Mogni noted that the issue was perhaps an “emergency” situation.  Renner, now leading the meeting, said the issue would have to be noticed at least 24 hours ahead of time.  Mogni told Renner he wanted to “come back” to the issue after the meeting’s agendized item was taken care of.

After votes were taken on officer succession, Mogni brought up
tfair1he issue again with board members discussing who should be in charge of office staff if Titus is unavailable.  Board members reached a consensus after discussion that Renner as interim board president should be available if Titus is not.  Titus, in an email to board members, said that while he is taking earned vacation leave, he is available to office staff and will continue signing checks.

Jim Ewert, an attorney for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, said on Wednesday that the fair board discussing an item not on the agenda and reaching a consensus was “one of the most common and in my perspective, egregious violations of the Brown Act.

“The reason I say most egregious is that it is the intent of the Brown Act to allow the public to be informed of potential actions and items and give them the opportunity to weigh in,” said Ewert.  “The benchmark on that is giving a notice to the public of what the body is going to do. If the board, in this case, decides to take up items not on the agenda, discuss and deliberate and act on them, it is a brazen patronizing contempt of the public.”

At a April 30, 2012 executive committee meeting of the board, board member Olsen told General Manager Titus that he was to stop reminding the board of the Brown Act or it could “cost him votes” when it came time for his contract renewal.

mu10Olsen also told Titus that he was to make sure board members “did not look bad” in this newspaper, owned and operated by Titus’ wife and to stop electronically recording board meetings — or he could lose votes.

A review of several years’ worth of board minutes by The Enterprise reported on in last week’s edition, shows multiple alleged violations of the state’s open meeting law.

The board’s regular monthly meeting is schedule for Monday, February 25, at 7 pm at the fairgrounds.

 

* * * * * * * *

Disclosure: Enterprise owner and editor Caroline Titus is married to Humboldt County Fair General Manager Stuart Titus.

The above article has been abridged.  You can read the full article by Ms. Titus in The Ferndale Enterprise here.

Better yet, pick up a print edition.  We appreciate the Tituses advocating for transparency and openess, following the Brown Act and the law, and simply doing the right and honest thing.

4 Responses to “Humboldt County Fair Board Violates Brown Act– Repeatedly”

  1. bmasson says:

    Having served boards before on P.U.D.S I have seen my share of brown act violations its clear of a lot of boards and it should be worked on regularly so as the boards change members the new comers understand the brown act .

  2. skippy says:

    True, bmasson. Some good public boards have orientation information material available to new members covering these details. While institutional experience and wisdom hopefully prevail, you never know when a newer board member may be called upon chair meetings or direct the organization unexpectedly.

    Following the Brown Act is not only a good preventative practice, it’s the law. It’s best that public agencies police themselves appropriately– lest hungry attorneys and/or a Grand Jury do it for them. For a high profile board sitting on a large pot of income like the Humboldt County Fair Association does, they have a lot to lose should things go awry.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Ferndale– You might recall our previous story on the matter. [...]

  2. [...] The following excerpt from the Ferndale Enterprise concerning the Humboldt County Fair budget didn’t exactly surprise us: [...]


Leave a Reply

HumSentinel on Twitter

RSS Progressive Review

  • War on the Constitution update
    Off the Charts   - The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities,  AARP, the AFL-CIO, Consumers Union, and ten other national organizations have written to the U.S. Trade Representative asking that Medicare, Medicaid, and other health programs be excluded from the investor-state dispute settlement provisions of pending trade agreements. ISDS would give compani […]
  • Links: Action
    Action news How to plan your own Moral Monday Building peace teams Cellphone guide for protesters Why we need history   Corporations that have deserted the US for tax purposes  BURGER KINGBOYCOTTS Israel  Academic/Cultural Koch Brothers Nestle North Face Staples Walmart Monsanto   ACTIONS Detroit Water Brigade Moral Mondays Tar Sands protests Occupy ACLU Bad […]
  • Stats: Population growth
    CRAIG CRAWFORD […]
  • Pocket paradigms
    We have lost much of what was gained in the 1960s and 1970s because we traded in our passion, our energy, our magic and our music for the rational, technocratic and media ways of our leaders. We will not overcome the current crisis solely with political logic. We need living rooms like those in which women once discovered they were not alone. The freedom sch […]
  • Word
    Remember this: many a good story has been ruined by over-verification -- James Gordon Bennett, Founder of NY Herald […]
  • Will Californians soon be drinking their own pee?
    Slate -The largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere is currently under construction in Carlsbad in San Diego County at great expense. The price tag: $1 billion.Right now, San Diego is almost totally dependent on imported water from Sierra snowmelt and the Colorado River. When the desalination plant comes online in 2016, it will produce 50 million […]
  • Follow the limousines
    From 50 years of our overstocked archivesSam Smith - A thought occurred to me as I sat in my car the other day waiting for a presidential cavalcade to make its way noisily down a Washington street: perhaps we should insist on a bit less protection for our leaders based on the theory that if they felt more endangered they would have more sympathy for the rest […]
  • Even in Africa....
    LA TIMES […]
  • Recovered history: The real Clinton story
    Things the media forgets to tell you about the Clintons and the state that made them.1974 27 year old Clinton, only months out of Yale Law School, is back in Arkansas eager to run for Congress. Roger Morris writes later,  "A relative unknown, he faces an imposing field of rivals in the Democratic primary, and beyond, in the general election, a powerful […]
  • Blackwater agents found guilty in Iraqi civilian deaths
    intercept - A federal jury in Washington, D.C., returned guilty verdicts against four Blackwater operatives charged with killing more than a dozen Iraqi civilians and wounding scores of others in Baghdad in 2007.The jury found one guard, Nicholas Slatten, guilty of first-degree murder, while three other guards were found guilty of voluntary manslaughter: Pau […]
  • What's happening
    Food delivery by tricyclesThe hazards of bike lawPhilly students protest for their teachers  A 97 year old scholar describes what it's like to live in an old folks' home […]
  • Bottom 90% worse off than in 1987
    Washington Post - Once upon a time, the American economy worked for everybody, and even the middle class got richer. But this story has only been a fairy tale for almost 30 years now. The new, harsh reality is that the bottom 90 percent of households are poorer today than they were in 1987.This is actually a much more dramatic statement than it sounds. While […]
  • US deporting asylum seekers
    immigration Impact -Human Right Watch  issued a report last week documenting serious flaws in the procedures used to deport noncitizens apprehended at or near the border—flaws that are resulting in the deportation of Central Americans who face serious harm in their home countries. The report is based on interviews of 35 noncitizens detained in the United Sta […]
  • How Watergate almost didn't happen
    Sam Smith - The passing of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee has brought back memories of the 1972 break-in at the Watergate and, for me, a story I learned about how the incident almost didn't happen. The Washingtonian Magazine reported a few years ago: Across the street in the Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge, a “spotter” for the burglars, Alfred C. Baldw […]
  • September 12, 2001
     From 50 years of our overstocked archivesSam Smith, September 12, 2001 - Throughout the day came contrasting images of Americans. The indefatigably courageous rescue workers - turned gray and white by pulverized matter. The innocent survivors resourcefully joining hands to follow the one flashlight out of a building or using a cell phone to locate themselve […]