In a letter to District Attorney Mark Peterson dated Nov. 29, Discovery Bay resident Bill Richardson said he believed the CSD had violated the Brown Act by not disclosing, on the board’s Nov.16 closed session agenda, the name and circumstances of one of the topics discussed. The item was listed only as “Conference with legal counsel – anticipated litigation.”
“The Town of Discovery Bay Community Services District has been violating the Brown Act and abusing the requirements for closed sessions on many occasions and in numerous different ways for years,” wrote Richardson. “Based on all of my experience with the CSD … I have no expectation that they will react as they should.”
The Brown Act, which applies to city and county government agencies, boards and councils, requires that meetings of public bodies be open and public, and that the agenda of a closed-session meeting be conveyed to the public either orally or in written form. In the case of the Nov. 16 meeting, Town Attorney Dan Schroeder disclosed the agenda orally prior to the closed session.
But for Richardson, Schroeder’s verbal disclosure was not enough. “What possible calamity could befall the CSD if you added the name, issue and date (of the “anticipated litigation” item) to your notice? I suggest, none,” wrote Richardson in his Nov. 16 letter.
Peterson disagreed. “Although the description (on the agenda) does not provide the name, date or issue that is the subject of anticipated litigation, the Brown Act does not require it,” wrote Peterson in his Dec.13 response to Richardson. “Similarly, it appears that the announcement made prior to the closed session was also in compliance … therefore, based upon my analysis of the facts and law, the meeting of Nov. 16 was held in compliance with the Brown Act.”
Richardson’s complaint to the DA is not his first clash with the town. The outspoken CSD critic has a long history of taking the board to task for what he perceives as Brown Act violations. In 2007 he filed a suit claiming that the CSD board had violated the Brown Act. The court found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the CSD, and the case was dismissed with prejudice.
Last year, Richardson sent the town a total of 109 letters – 80 of which were public-records requests – an average of two letters per week.
CSD President Kevin Graves, while pleased with the DA’s ruling, doesn’t anticipate Richardson will give up his correspondence or interaction with the board. “I have no delusions that that will happen,” said Graves. “In the past, such events have done nothing but spur additional unwanted and unfounded accusations, so it tends to be a kind of one-step-forward, two-steps-back situation. But it is refreshing to have the affirmation from our legal system come down with such authority on our side.”
For his part, Richardson is determined to continue advocating for his community. “I respect Mr. Peterson’s literal interpretation of the Brown Act,” said Richardson. “But he does not address the very unlimited exercise of discretion that the CSD can, and does, exercise in these matters … The CSD should welcome the pursuit of those opportunities for transparency and openness, and I will continue to help the CSD in that regard.”