A Record Searchlight reporter says that the Mountain Gate Community Services District board of directors voted in closed session to hire a district manager without announcing the decision at that meeting, a clear violation of California’s Brown Act, the state’s open meeting law. -db
The Record Searchlight
December 15, 2010
By Sean Longoria
Less than a week after voting to hire the interim district manager permanently, the Mountain Gate Community Services District board of directors made its vote public Tuesday.
The board voted in closed session Dec. 9 to appoint Jeff Cole to the position, but the vote wasn’t announced at that meeting.
That action violates the Brown Act, which states a board of a public agency must disclose a closed session action and the vote breakdown.
Gary Gunter said Friday he wouldn’t disclose the vote because the board was advised by the district’s attorney, Michael Fitzpatrick, it was not required to.
“We did our jobs and we’re moving on,” he said.
However, new board chairman David Selby said Tuesday that the board would disclose its vote to correct the previous action.
Board members voted 3-2 to hire Cole, with Cary Park and Joan Anderson dissenting. The board did not explain its vote.
The board spent more than two hours in closed session Dec. 9 interviewing Cole and two other candidates.
Cole’s interim appointment sparked widespread controversy in Mountain Gate that many residents believed was the core issue behind the attempted recall of board members Greg Peterson and Park in November.
Both narrowly escaped recall, Park by 13 votes and Peterson by 11.
Some Mountain Gate residents have worried that Cole, accused by many community members of rewriting the manager’s job description to qualify himself, has been employed unfairly, and his term as interim manager should have ended long ago.
Others feared candidates — many of whom applied when the position was first advertised in the summer of 2009 — lost interest in the job.
Anderson has said she didn’t believe that was fair to the applicants who had been “waiting around for more than a year.”
District Clerk Marilyn Jorgensen said in an e-mail Saturday that no one was kept waiting around.
“Applicants who were not qualified received a letter from (the district),” she said. “The top two candidates were continually updated about when the board would interview them.”
The board also considered consolidating its elections, currently held in odd-numbered years, with the general election.
The action would save the district about $1,200 in its next election and voter turnout would increase, Selby said Tuesday.
“The more people that go to the even year, the cost to the odd people keeps going up because you’re going to shoulder the cost yourself,” he said.
Should the district choose to consolidate, directors could see their terms extended by a year, though the board wasn’t sure on who would be affected.
“We can’t afford not to do this,” Park said.
District staff members will prepare a resolution for approval for the board’s Jan. 11 meeting.
The Shasta County Board of Supervisors has final say in the switch.
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