Oroville: Lame duck park district board allegedly made decisions before invited few

Critics are alleging that the Feather River Recreation and Park District’s held a special meeting to make key decisions in violation of the California’s open meeting law. They failed to inform the newly elected directors of the meeting or invite the local press. -db

Oroville Mercury-Register
December 7, 2010
By Mary Weston

OROVILLE, Calif. — The Feather River Recreation and Park District held a special meeting Thursday before the three new board members were sworn in, but not everyone was invited, including the Mercury-Register.

At the special meeting, the lame duck board of directors approved a five-year contract for General Manager John Buck, although his contract shouldn’t be up until January, and voted to buy the Hart’s Mill Fire Station in Berry Creek for $70,000.

The Thursday meeting was one day before the three newly elected board members were sworn in on Friday. The new board members also weren’t notified about the meeting.

Monday, it became apparent that many people who usually receive e-mail notices of park district meetings didn’t receive a notice or an agenda.

“It’s totally unethical, and it’s a violation of the Brown Act,” said newly elected director Bob Sharkey.

Buck’s contract should not have been up until January 2011, as he started on Jan. 18 with a one-year contract.

“They pre-empted us and straddled us with a five-year contract, which is unheard for a district manager,” Sharkey said.

Neither Buck nor office manager Sheryl Manies returned phone calls asking why neither the newspaper nor the new board members received notice of the meeting.

But Sharkey said Buck told him Monday the board approved buying the Hart’s Mill Fire Station for $70,000 and OK’d a new five-year contract for himself.

Sharkey said those decisions should have been made by the new board, rather than secretly at a meeting the new directors were not even told about.
Sharkey said he and probably the other new directors will challenge the decisions made at the special meeting, and ask to have them rescinded because the meeting was not properly noticed to people on the e-mail list.

According to the Brown Act, boards of directors of special districts can hold special meetings at different times from regular meetings. However, districts need to post a 24-hour notice and notify people and entities on its notice list.

Directors TJ Jenson, John Allen and Sharkey had planned to be sworn in Nov. 29, but said Buck told them he couldn’t have the paperwork done until Friday.

Meanwhile, the board held the special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m., and the new directors only found out about it Monday.

Jenson said he did not receive notice of the meeting, and neither Buck, Manies nor Chairwoman Jan Hill had returned his phone calls.

“This is unheard of for a district to do something like this,” Jenson said. “But I am more than willing for them to talk with me about it. They are going to have to work with me.”

Jenson said he had an appointment to talk with Manies and Buck last Friday, and they stood him up. He still doesn’t have a board packet or any binders he requested to catch up on past board business, he said.

Jenson said he would like to schedule a special board meeting to talk about why they were not sent notices, as well as the decisions made at the special meeting.

Another newly elected board member, John Allen, said he did not receive notice of the special meeting either. He said he usually receives notices via e-mail.

Allen said he is going to e-mail Buck and ask the decisions made in the special meeting be rescinded.

“This is unacceptable,” Allen said. “I didn’t think the board would stoop to this level. It’s really very childish.”

Hill did return a phone call late Monday afternoon, saying she didn’t know why the newspaper and new board members had not received notices. She said people from Berry Creek knew about it and packed the meeting.

Hill said Manies told her she had sent the agenda to the newspaper as well as to the new board members.

Hill insisted the meeting was properly noticed because it was posted on the website and at the office.

“I don’t know what else I can say,” Hill said. “But thank you for not blasting us about this in the newspaper.”

Later Hill called back and said she had found out that the newspaper had not received a notice because the server was down last week, so the e-mail list notices did not go out.

When asked why the meeting wasn’t then canceled or why people were not noticed in another way, Hill said she did not know.

The district will amend the mistake, as it wants to do everything correctly, Hill said.

However, she didn’t know if they would rescind the items approved at the meeting and schedule another meeting, as she would have to talk to Buck and Manies first.

Meanwhile, other people, including Rich Delaby, called to ask if it was true the district had a special meeting last Thursday because they also were not notified.

It’s unclear how the other board members and the people in Berry Creek who came to support the Hart’s Mill purchase received notice of the meeting since many of them also receive meeting agendas by e-mail.

The next regular meeting of the park district board is Dec. 14.

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  • This is a Brown Act Violation. We will see what they do when I submit a letter demanding they remedy the violation. More to come.

  • Please don’t forget to make a Grand Jury complaint about this Brown Act violation. From what i can remeber about this subject matter, the action taken can not be voided, just because people were not notified. I could be wrong, because i don’t have the section number in front of me to read. These codes are very cleverly worded in the District’s favor!
    This action by these Board members is very disterbing to say the least.I live in orangevale CA. i know all about park district’s and baord of directors!Most everything they do is for the District for the Board, very clickie, very bad for us. they think the District is their district to administer and govern any way they like. They must be wached very closely. Get their audio tapes of their baord of directors meetins before they destroy them, and they can destroy them after 30 days!
    Good Luck!

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