“… the Legislature finds [that] public agencies… exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly…

The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know…”

The above is an excerpt from the Ralph M. Brown Act, enacted by the California legislature in 1953 to guarantee the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local elected officials. It is called “the sunshine law” for a reason; it was designed in response to concerns about meetings held by local (California) elected officials out of view of the public.

The secret contract described by Councilman Allevato in his article on page three is an example of why the Brown Act is necessary. When the public is properly notified of a pending action such as a contract cancellation which will ultimately drive up water rates, at least they are given an opportunity to register their opposition and perhaps put a stop to the action. It is unfortunate when elected officials choose to ignore it, especially since taxpayers are often stuck with the tab for decisions made behind closed doors, as was the case with the ECO contract cancellation.

The purchase of the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park is another example in which the spirit of the Brown Act was violated, if not the law itself. The purchase of the “open space” and riding park property with $27.5 million of public monies was negotiated entirely behind closed doors. The public was not aware of the terms, conditions and restrictions associated with this property purchase - until after the agreement was signed. To this day, San Juan residents are still restricted from using it.

We at the CCS suggest that the citizens are owed an honest explanation about the contract cancellation, in keeping with the transparency pledged by Councilman Allevato during his campaign.

In “CTA Questions Legality of Water Plant Contract Cancellation”, author and Capistrano Taxpayers Association (CTA) member John Perry writes about the contract cancellation of the Ground Water Recovery Plant (GWRP)’s operator “ECO Systems” (ECO).

ECO had a 20-year contract to design/build and then operate/maintain the GWRP for $1.1 million per year; a relative bargain compared to how much the City is spending to operate it. Perry’s research indicates that the City terminated the contract with ECO, which effectively let them off the hook for tens of millions of dollars in on-going repairs and maintenance costs.

Mr. Perry states that he can find no agenda item in which the council voted to terminate the contract. He found no record of the contract cancellation having been reported out of closed session and found no mention of it in meeting minutes as required by law (the Ralph M. Brown Act).

We invited Councilman Sam Allevato to explain to the taxpayers how this happened, since he is the only present council member who served on the council in 2008 when this decision was made. His response is printed in this issue.

1 comment:

Linda P. said...

It looks like they violated the brown act? if so what can we do about it?

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