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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 16th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 19 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 19

Andy Caldwell calls foul against three county supervisors

BY AMY ASMAN

Government watchdog and radio show host Andy Caldwell of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture, and Business (COLAB) is butting heads with three of the Santa Barbara County supervisors.

Earlier this month, Caldwell filed a complaint with the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office asking officials to investigate whether supervisors Salud Carbajal, Janet Wolf, and Doreen Farr violated the Ralph M. Brown Act, legislation that guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies.

In a letter to District Attorney Joyce Dudley, Caldwell alleged the three supervisors violated the Brown Act by attending an environmental conference last month at U.C. Santa Barbara. The conference served as a launching pad for the Resilient Communities for American Campaign, which asks local leaders to commit to taking steps to address climate change and energy challenges.

Caldwell, who also attended the conference, said the event was open on an invitation-only basis. According to the Brown Act, the majority of a legislative body can attend a public meeting organized to address a topic of local community concern, provided the members don’t discuss among themselves—other than as part of the scheduled program—business that falls under their jurisdiction.

Caldwell went on in the letter to claim that the supervisors violated the Brown Act by getting on stage at the conference “to certify they are signatories” of the Resilient Communities for America agreement, which includes such components as adopting policies to protect natural resources from extreme weather and other climate impacts.

Caldwell then linked what happened at the conference to a July 2 Board of Supervisors meeting in which the board majority—Carbajal, Wolf, and Farr—voted to apply for a $200,000 grant to study sea level rise. He said the supervisors’ decisions to sign the Resilient Communities for America agreement and to apply for the sea-level study grant violate the portion of the Brown Act that bans legislative body majorities from “taking action” on an item under its jurisdiction after attending a public informational meeting.

In his letter, Caldwell called on the Board of Supervisors to “cure” the violation immediately by rescinding its vote to apply for the sea-level study grant, as well as take an annual refresher course on the Brown Act. He also said the three supervisors who attended the UCSB conference should pay a fine, rescind their signatures from the Resilient Communities for America agreement, and make a public apology.

On July 9, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in closed session to decline Caldwell’s call for a cure.

Supervisor Wolf told the Sun the board “did not find any reason to undo” approval of the application for the sea-level study grant.

“I think it’s important to note that it was unanimous,” Wolf said.

When asked about what happened at the UCSB conference, she said, “No action was taken.”

She called the agreement “a pledge that confirms what the [Board of Supervisors] has done together as a whole,” including the implementation of studies on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

In an e-mail to the Sun, Carbajal called Caldwell’s allegations “silly and frivolous.” He said no pledge agreement was signed at the conference.

On July 12, County Counsel sent Caldwell a letter from the Board of Supervisors formally declining his demand to cure. The letter said the conference was open to the public and that no one from the public was turned away. It also stated the board members attending the conference didn’t discuss the sea-level study grant application at the event. Rather, the letter said, the July 2 action was consistent with the board’s adoption of a climate action plan in 2009.

Caldwell, for his part, said it doesn’t matter that the supervisors didn’t physically sign the agreement at the conference because their names are included as signatories on the Resilient Communities for America website. He maintains that the conference wasn’t open to the public because it was invitation-only.

“They’re trying to split hairs on this,” Caldwell said. “The county has been a member of ICLEI [one of the conference sponsors] for years, and we don’t know what they’re up to.”

The supervisors appear to be unmoved by his claims.

“Andy continues to attempt to intimidate and it’s very unfortunate,” Wolf said. “If there’s a possibility of a violation, you do what you have to do to fix it, but Andy’s playing the press.”

Kelly Scott with the District Attorney’s Office confirmed to the Sun that she’s investigating the claim, but declined to comment further. Calls made to Supervisor Farr and Resilient Communities for America weren’t returned as of press time.