The Orange Unified School District board of trustees has allegedly violated the Brown Act, California’s open meeting act in failing to observe the rules governing teleconferencing votes. According to the act, all votes during teleconference must be rollcall votes. -db
Greater Orange News Service
July 26, 2010
With Trustee Kim Nichols participating in the June 10, 2010 OUSD Board meeting by teleconference from Memphis Tennessee, the OUSD Board voted by illegal voice vote on several major items. The Brown Act, which allows teleconferencing also specifically denotes the rules under how that teleconferencing is to take place. One of the specific rules spelled out in Section 54952 (2) of the Brown Act is that all votes during teleconferencing be rollcall votes:
54953. (2) Teleconferencing, as authorized by this section, may be used
for all purposes in connection with any meeting within the subject
matter jurisdiction of the legislative body. All votes taken during
a teleconferenced meeting shall be by rollcall.
None of the votes taken during the teleconference meeting on June 10 were by rollcall which is a violation of the Brown Act, technically making those votes illegal. The Brown Act also defines in Section 54952 (4) what a teleconference meeting is;
(4) For the purposes of this section, “teleconference” means a
meeting of a legislative body, the members of which are in different
locations, connected by electronic means, through either audio or
video, or both.
By definition, the June 10 OUSD Board Meeting was a teleconference meeting with Trustee Kim Nichols participating by a conference call. In fact the telephonic conference device was set up at her position at the Board diaz. The re-broadcast of the Board meeting on the OUSD Cable Channel shows the device and has Nichols name under it on the screen when Nichols spoke by telephone at the meeting. Nine major votes were cast during the meeting by voice, all of which were illegal and could be technically null votes. Those votes included:
• Approving a tentative labor agreement for a reduction in work days with the Orange Unified Educators Association.
• Approving a reduction in work days for leadership employees
• Approving an amendment to the Superintendent’s Contract for a reduction in work days and pay
• Approved a new school calendar with five fewer days
• Approving a Budget Resolution
• All Consent Agenda Items
In the past the OUSD Board has had problems with the Brown Act. Litigation has broken both ways, for and against OUSD. In 2003, as a result of alleged Brown Violation case from 2001, OUSD was forced for two years to record all closed session meetings in case a judge had to review them for Brown Act violations. In another noteworthy case from 2006, Californians Aware, a Brown Act advocacy group, teamed with former Trustee Steve Rocco in accusing OUSD of Brown Act violations in a celebrated case that led to the Censure of Rocco by fellow OUSD Board members. In the end, OUSD won that case and later took legal actions to recover attorney costs from Rocco.
The next OUSD Board Meeting on July 29, will also be a teleconference meeting with Trustee Melissa Smith attending from Lake Forrest, Illinois.
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