Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Shackford Apologies for not Recognizing Brown Act Violation

Shackford Apologies
for not Recognizing
Brown Act Violation

The Editor of the Desert Dispatch was dismissive when the violation was first brought to his attention, after some consideration he realized that the law was violated and that there are even more serious ramifications of the Council’s Transgressions.

Apparently former Barstow Mayor and City Councilman Gil Gurule had contacted Shackford to give him a heads up that while the four members of the Council were supposed to be attending the League of CA Cities Conference in Sacramento, they were actually playing hooky and spending their time lobbying on behalf of Barwest.

The fact that all four members of the Council were meeting behind closed doors in the Governor’s office, lobbying, setting policy, and negotiating upon their special interests was something that Shackford wasn’t interested in when Gurule first brought it to his attention. But after the matter exploded into view at the Council meeting on Sept 17, Shackford had an awakening and to his credit was man enough to offer up an apology. Here is what the paper’s editor had to say on his "Editor's Blog" at

Who Watches the Watchdogs?
posted by Scott Shackford

September 18th, 2007 ·

It looks like I owe Manuel “Gil” Gurule an apology.

He called me at the end of last week about the casino happenings (and lack thereof) in Sacramento. His intention was to point out to me that the meetings between the governor’s staff and four City Council members may have been a Brown Act violation. The Brown Act is California’s public meeting law, which is intended to make sure that local governmental meetings and decisions (with some exceptions) happen in a public forum, with the community appropriately notified.

I blame casino outrage fatigue for not listening, though it’s really a lousy excuse. City Council members aren’t supposed to gather in large enough numbers to define a quorum — three or more in this case — without public notification of the meeting. Their meeting in Sacramento is most likely a Brown Act violation, though they amended the situation by reporting out the content of the meeting at the subsequent City Council meeting Monday.

I was dismissive of Mr. Gurule’s call, because I’ve grown tired of folks on both sides finding ways to pick pick pick at their opponents and trying to get the newspaper involved. I’ve also been made increasingly aware by our readership that most folks out there don’t care about the squabbling, just the results.

But while this particular Brown Act violation was fairly mild — they were just there to receive information, it appears, not to plan anything — there are potential serious repercussions when this happens. What other meetings could have taken place in Sacramento without our knowledge? Could there have been strategy sessions to deal with opposition to one project? Could they have discussed dumping the city’s agreement with one tribe or the other? These are all potential discussion subjects that are obligated to happen in public.

So I apologize for letting my frustration with the nature of this debate cloud my perception about what is happening in Sacramento. Gurule was absolutely right to be concerned and I appreciate his call, in retrospect.

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