The county now says the settlement with the Trinity Action Association stands, the board’s unnecessary and failed Oct. 1 attempt to ratify the chairman’s signature on the completed settlement after the fact notwithstanding.
As more and more information leaks out, it seems even more apparent there was a full vote in an Aug. 6 closed session to approve the settlement, no matter how much some members of the board wish to cloak it under “direction given to staff.” The county’s own attorney even confirmed “the settlement was approved.” Sup. John Fenley says there was a vote and at the board’s last meeting asked when and if the vote would be reported out, according to Brown Act provisions.
For months now the Journal has requested — first informally, then formally — to receive the closed-session vote to approve the settlement.
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.”
County counsel contends no vote was taken in closed session and direction was merely given to staff to execute the agreement. Yet the settlement agreement was all but completed in late July, leaving plenty of time for supervisors to review its terms.
Sup. Keith Groves has said the board did not have the completed 7-page settlement before them at the Aug. 6 meeting. We ask why not? The county had almost a full week to make copies. Given the fact the board chairman and attorney signed the completed settlement the very next day, one would think the supervisors had to have had either a completed or substantive version before them.
Common sense would tell you a vote was taken. But the county would have you believe in the closed session the board just casually tells staff to settle a lawsuit, provide $95,000 in taxpayer’s money to the opposing lawyer, all without a vote?
Sup. Judy Morris would have you believe it often happens this way, but no one in business signs a legal document, cuts a $95,000 check and then waits for approval. We can’t envision any scenario where a lawsuit settlement and outlay of nearly six figures of the public’s money wouldn’t require a full vote of the board — beforehand and not two months later.
The public has a right to know how their individual supervisor voted and why. We ask the board to follow state code 54957.1, report out any closed-session vote and the substance of said action, both now and in the future.
An explanation on why the vote was not reported out Aug. 6 as required by law would also be welcome.