We had hoped at some point — the most recent opportunity came a couple of weeks ago — the Board of Supervisors might finally reveal publicly the Aug. 6 closed session votes to settle a lawsuit filed against the county by the Trinity Action Association and the $95,000 payment to TAA. Unfortunately, that tally remains unreported.
For six months now the Journal has requested — first informally, then formally, then through its attorney — to receive the closed-session vote to approve the settlement, as per state law.
State code 54957.1 (a) states the legislative body of any local agency shall publicly report any action taken in closed session and the vote or abstention on that action of every member present. Likewise, it states in part, “If the legislative body accepts a settlement offer signed by the opposing party, the body shall report its acceptance and identify the substance of the agreement in open session.” We're still waiting.
Instead, on Feb. 19 county supervisors rubber-stamped without comment an incredibly inane response letter, crafted by Trinity County Counsel Margaret Long (who we now believe needs to be replaced), to a cease-and-desist request from The Trinity Journal and its attorney.
In the letter, the county admits to no wrongdoing or Brown Act violations in the past (though they have) and promises never to do it again. Unless, of course, there is a majority vote of the board for a "Rescission of Brown Act Commitment." They can commit or not commit all they want, the truth of the matter is the Brown Act is state law and dictates how a government agency is supposed to conduct itself and be open and transparent with its constituency — its bosses.
That the board has now gone six months without revealing its vote — though dictated by state law — shows its contempt for the public. That at least two supervisors are finishing their terms this year, and depending on election results this week possibly a third, is hopefully a step toward more transparency. After all, what is more basic to a representative government than knowing how your representative voted?
We're still baffled by the reluctance to report out. The issue at hand isn't particularly controversial, though there was some grumbling over settling the lawsuit from some members of the cannabis community. Approval of the settlement, no matter how much some members of the board wish to cloak it under "direction given to staff," is by law to be reported out. The county's own attorney even confirmed "the settlement was approved." Sup. John Fenley says there was a vote.
The public has a right to know how their individual supervisor voted and why. We would once again ask the board to follow state code 54957.1 and report out the closed-session vote, but it's a fair chance we'd be wasting our breath. Litigation is being investigated.