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BWD Board Seeks to Cover Up Abysmal Performance

Digger - February 15, 2008

Most Borregans are probably unaware that the Borrego Water District Board reduced the retention period for audio recordings of its meetings from 5 years to approximately 60 days before they are destroyed. The board apparently prefers to keep it that way.

At the 9 January meeting a motion to approve this change, made by Director King and seconded by Director Anderson, failed with only Anderson and King voting in favor. On 13 February the board reversed itself and voted unanimously to approve the very change it rejected only a month earlier. The minutes of neither meeting state any need, reason, or rationale for the change.

Director Mendenhall noted that he "considered it a good policy and asked that it be reconsidered."Evidently it was not "good policy"a month earlier when he voted against it. Director Shimeal "expressed support for the revision, noting it was consistent with the Brown Act;"even though neither the Brown Act nor the policy had changed one iota in the interim. Director Smiley apparently changed his vote without explanation.

It is true that the Brown Act, California"s open meeting law, only requires that recordings be retained for 30 days; but it declares that "The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created;"and expressly provides that "...local agencies may impose requirements upon themselves which allow greater access to their meetings than prescribed by the minimal standards..." The 30 day rule is such a minimal standard. The California Public Records Act likewise affirms that "access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business is a fundamental and necessary right..."

There are three possible explanations for this sudden reversal:

  1. There was collusion among the directors between the meetings, which would be a violation of the Brown Act;
  2. The 3 directors who voted "No"the first time all walked the road to Damascus in the interim - separately, of course;
  3. Directors simply vote in a totally arbitrary and capricious fashion.

So, while the new BWD policy may comply with the letter of the Brown act, it flies in the face of the spirit and intent of both the Brown Act and the California Public Records Act, and appears to serve no purpose - unless that purpose is to conceal details of the board"s machinations and frustrate the public"s right to know. It is understandable that the board would, so far as possible, want to hide its misfeasance and paltry record accomplishment; but this is a really bad decision - even for a BWD board. It would stink on ice.

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