Monday, September 24, 2012

Gil Aguirre on the SGVCOG's Brown Act Training Reluctance

(Mod: Last Thursday the SGVCOG held a meeting, and the topic of Brown Act training came up. It wasn't the first time, and given this organization's infamous run-ins with this state law, along with some rather obvious consequences, you'd think they would be eager to learn. However, along with ethical challenges often comes entitlement, a notion that somehow the rules don't apply and that any attempt to bring so rogue an organization to legal heel is in blatant disregard of its perceived "specialness." I think that after reading Gil's post you will agree that those still running the COG have a lot to learn.) 

"We are being punished"

Those were the words used by delegate Bruce Lathrop at the recent San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG) meeting to describe having to participate in a review of the Brown Act, the State's primary open meeting and transparency law.

And Mr. Lathrop did not seem alone in his sentiment. The entire SGVCOG board struggled to even agree on a time for the review, with SGVCOG President Barbara Messina concerned that a quorum of the Board might not even attend.

One might think that the Board members were being asked to sit through an arduous two day seminar, or at least a class stretching over several hours. But that is not the case, the review would be a mere one hour long.

Now if there was ever a need for a Brown Act review session by a legislative body, the SGVCOG Board might qualify as the poster child for such training. Litigation was filed last year against the agency alleging what can only be described as a litany of past and ongoing violations. Lapses such as: holding unauthorized secret meetings, preventing members of the public from speaking during meetings, failing to post agendas for meetings, and discussing items of business which were not on the agendas. I'm sure you get the idea.

And this Brown Act training, or punishment as the Board seems to see it, is really a self-imposed condition. You see, the Board previously voted to settle the litigation and agreed that they needed the training. Apparently during a brief moment of clarity, the Board felt complying with the law might be a better way to go than risk facing a judge where real punishment might be doled out.

Based on their track record for violations, the SGVCOG Board should consider embracing this review instead of resisting it. With all due respect, each of the members should plan on arriving early, getting a prime seat down in front and taking copious notes during the class. Their past actions certainly show that they are in desperate need of learning more about their legal obligations to the public, which is, of course, who they are supposed to serve.

Mr. Lathrop got it wrong. Bruce, along with the rest of the SGVCOG members, aren't the ones being punished. It is the public who is being punished, and has been for a while. We are being punished for our decision to elect officials who are willing to disregard our rights and conduct themselves more like a secret society rather than a body of public servants.

The SGVCOG members would do well to remember that we elected them to conduct our business, not their business, and that we have every right to observe and participate in that process.

Hopefully that will be covered in class.

(Mod: To find out the names of your SGVCOG Brown Act Class of 2012 members, feel free to click here.)

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

44 comments:

  1. For those members who think they did the right thing during the time of ssecret meetings, etc. a review course of ethics could be very enlightening. But of course, the know it alls never think they have anything to learn.

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    1. It's a good gesture, and one they should make with all haste.
      However, there's no guarantee they will listen to a damn thing.

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    2. That may be true, 9:43, but on the off chance that a sentence or two penetrates the obvious fog in their brains, it will be time well spent. Maybe one or two of them will put together the concept of "conflict of intrerest" with Nick Conway's behavior?

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    3. 7:29, don't hold your breath. Some people are very skillful at not hearing what is being said.

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  2. There is that now famous meeting incident where a COG official was helping a member of the public find a chair. Nick Conway, upon finding out what was going on, told the COG member to stop. "He can stand," said Nick.

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  3. Is this the same Messina who played with Kenny Loggins?

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    1. Could be his mom.

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    2. Maybe the buffalo from Buffalo Springfield.

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    3. Don't look now, old timer at 8:12, but she could be his daughter.

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    4. I saw Judge Dredd over the weekend. Maybe that is the kind of law enforcement we need when it comes to regional governments.

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  4. If the hour long Brown Act session is part of a plea bargain, why do these people think they can weasel out of it? Isn't there any law enforcement involved here?

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    1. Maybe it's the same kind of law enforcement that applies to Susan Henderson having to settle a $47,000 judgement against her.

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    2. The Courts just go through the motions. Once people start to realize this the law profession is dead.

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  5. Messina is part of the closed circle, treating this organization as a personal PAC, and has the attitude that she doesn't need to answer to the public.
    In another country, she would be a candidate for dictator in chief.

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    1. If Prop 31 passes these will be the kinds of people who will be running our regional governments. They will have their hands on the property tax money pursestrings.

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    2. 9:34, what a dreadful prospect.

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    3. Prop 31 takes our money out of our hands and puts it into the control of people who are in no way accountable to us. Doesn't that sound like COG's " best practices" to you?

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    4. They have just hired all of CONway's employees. The will be entitled to a PERS pension which our city is on the hook for. If CONway's high paid lawyers get him off, CONway will be hired back with a PERS pension. He can then buy back all of his time as a paid employee and retire with a nice PERS pension. CONway is not dumb. He is like Randy Adams who was the Chief of Glendale and took Bell for a half million dollar pension

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  6. Are their names also included on the Rogue's Gallery ?

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  7. These board members have made a big mistake. They think that being on the board means that they are exceptional people. Not so. They are people who like to go to meetings, who like a lot of talk, maybe in the best cases, they are people who want to participate in local government and make things better. But they are not exceptional, they are not above the law, and in fact, they come off as pretty stupid because that old con Conway hustled them for so long.

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    1. Sans the last sentence this statement can be made about all boards whether they be SGVCOG, Boards of Educations, General Electric, or Sierra Madre Community Nursery School. Very occasionally an occasional board member is outstanding and in some significant way makes a difference. It is the duty of the individuals making up the organization that make the difference - by constant vigilance and oversight. An example would be the appointment of Joe Mosca to the SGVCOG and PUSD as liaison and who seldom showed up vs the unappointed MaryAnn MacGillivray who attended, reported back, and inspired citizens to oversight.

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    2. I don't think Conway hustled them all. At least not all of them. I think some of them were not only perfectly aware of what was going on, and supported it as well. They think they're above the law.

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    3. I have a hard time with that 11:04.
      I think people fool themselves into thinking there are good justifications for the shoddy things they might do.
      I'd be willing to bet all the Board members think they are good, and that they don't deserve what's happening to them.
      Bet ya.

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    4. Joe Mosca made an entire political career on that same delusion, and illusion, and then milked it mercilessly.

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  8. GET OUT Sierra Madre. I understand Walnut and other cities have bailed but the COG is CONwaying the membership by not telling anyone. Apparently 20 percent of the Cities have already witheld their membership. They officially are not members next month. WTF is wrong with our City Council? Why do they stay in this corrupt organization. Where is our City Council Leadership? Get us out now!

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  9. The COG insiders are still supporting CONway. He is getting ready to sue the COG and a few individual directors like Tom King and others who opposed his conflicts of interests that were hatched in secret. They are still paying this miscreant and he has the highest paid lawyer that our tax money can buy. Remember when King warned all the cities about the liability of what they were doing? It has all come to pass.

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    1. That Conway is a real charmer. Our hard earned tax money at work. Regional government is such a blessing for us!

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  10. And a good point was made at the meeting that the COG attorney, the COG watchdog of Brown Act violations, was one of the participants who allowed them to get in the mess they're in, will be paid to teach the class to this cast of mostly idiots. So typical COG. All this going on while Nick Conway is STILL on PAID LEAVE. And one might wonder what Nick's doing while on paid leave? According to the COG, amongst other things (coming to the office every day) meeting with his attorney working on every way possible to sue the COG. Just another day at the COG. And people wonder why ACE wants a divorce.

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    1. Looks like he is trying to take the place down with him.

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    2. So he gets 40 grand a month, the COG has spent something like 700 grand paying legal bills and fees to CALTRANS. He gets a six month golden parachute and sues for a million dollars in legal fees. The COG is doomed and Sierra Madre has tied itself to the anchor chain of the Titanic.

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    3. That's a lot of buffets!

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    4. The world's most expensive mashed potatoes.

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    5. Isn't leaving the COG on an upcoming agenda? Puleeze.

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  11. They think they're being punished for a one hour ethics class? Shame on them. Think of what the punishment will be when they get caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

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    1. Bruce Lathrop's remark is extraordinarily stupid.
      And revealing.
      An ethics lecture as a negative thing.

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  12. I could teach the Brown Act class. I sat through it in person for 7 years while a commissioner on what was then the Park and Recreations commission 25 years ago, then on another commission on which I have sat for 8 years and will for another year until my second term is up (I filled in for some one so I have been on this commission for longer than usual) and then I have taken it on line and via video before the on line option was available for a state agency whose advisory board I sit on. Ralph Brown knew what was needed and it can only be accomplished if there is rigorous application and follow-through. It is exhausting trying to keep people honest. The Greedy always seem to have a lot more energy!

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    1. Yeah, it isn't very complicated. This COG group gets it, they just choose to ignore it and do what they want.

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  13. This is such a shameful situation, it's hard to know where to start. But getting out of the organization would clearly be the best thing to do.

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  15. Good news and Bad news for sgvCOG, now it appears Glendora city manager Chris Jeffers has gotten into the fray in trying to save sgvCOG from it's self. Alhambra City mayor Barbara Messina has created too many enemys.

    From those who attend a sgvCOG's latest meeting pretty much felt A.C.E. would win out and be able to seperate fromn sgvCOG, what's bothering the sgvCOG member's right now is who is going to pay for Nick Conways legal defense fund?

    Glendora's last city council meeting September 25, 2012 has a special "closed Session" meeting item, Impending lawsuit. This could be the one Nick Conway will be filling aginast each and every city in the sgvCOG to force them to pay for his sinful defense.

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    1. Kind of contradicts John Harabedian's Tuesday evening assessment that everything is "going swimmingly" at The COG.

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  16. The COG holding on to ACE is no surprise. Seems ACE's honesty and ability to get things done has fared well to those that fund their efforts. Meanwhile Barbaras, Jeffers, Spence and others that are in panic mode trying to convince the Cities the COG is a great place to be a member so begging for dues to be paid. So if ACE continues to do its job the funding sources continue to fund its projects while its 'parent' the COG goes completely broke financing its legal battles. And somehow they will need to find money to cover such things like paying off Conway, their incompentent attorney and all the other suits in the queue. Now where... where can COG find the money to pay for this.. Seems logical to these crooks that since ACE rightfully belongs to the COG what's theres is COGs and well, you get the picture. This is a tragedy and the cities should get out of this nightmare and give ACE the same opportunity.

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