4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

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4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast
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 L-R: Ismael Ulloa, Kate Parker, Jackie Reid, Wendy Sims-Moten, Eder Gaona-Macedo (Courtesy photo). 

By Jerry Roberts

Around 6:45 [Tuesday] morning, four of five members of Santa Barbara’s school board were photographed together at a cozy Cajun Kitchen breakfast, raising questions of whether they violated California’s iconic open meeting law on Election Day.

The Ragin’ Cajuns, who sat down together at the restaurant on De La Vina after an early morning Democratic Party get-out-the-vote operation included: Ismael Ulloa, an appointed incumbent who is on the ballot, plus board chair Jackie Reid; vice-chair Wendy Sims-Moten and Kate Parker, all Dems supporting his election to the non-partisan office. Rounding out the party was Eder Gaona-Macedo, who is Ulloa’s campaign manager

California’s Ralph M. Brown Act, aimed at guaranteeing the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies like the school board, places broad restrictions on local officials meeting together without public notice and discussing “business of a specific nature under the body’s jurisdiction.”

However, it also provides an exemption allowing members to meet for “social or ceremonial events” where no such business is discussed.

This being a small town and all, it didn’t take long for the image of four incumbents huddling on Decision Day for a hotly contested race for two seats on the school board to rebound swiftly across the internets in Santa Barbara.
 
The politics of perception. Amid in-the-weeds buzz about specific provisions of the Brown Act, Newsmakers pondered a less legal, but equally important question about politics and the optics of perception:

At the end of a campaign featuring complaints about the lack of transparency at the school board, WTF were they thinking?

Reid and Sims-Moten did not respond to requests for comment, but Ulloa and Parker (who’s going off the board but was on Tuesday’s ballot running for City College trustee) insisted there was no substantive discussion of, you know, schools or education issues at the table.

"The Brown Act allows board members to meet socially, as long we don't discuss school board business, which we weren't," Ish told us. "It's election day, we were discussing the election. The picture you attached proves we weren't meeting privately, it was out in the open."

“We were talking about the election,” Parker agreed. “We’re allowed to meet for social reasons, as long as we don’t discuss board business."

But school board candidate Mark Alvarado begged to differ, saying that if the super-majority of the school board did not violate the letter of the Brown Act, they clearly flouted its spirit:

“At the end of the day, it just looks unethical,” Alvarado told us. “It really highlights the problem of transparency at the school district.”

The expert speaks. Jim Ewert is General Counsel of the California News Publishers Association, and one of the state’s leading authorities on the Brown Act.

In an interview during which we relayed the basic facts of what happened, he said the crucial issue in determining whether the four had violated the Brown Act was the subject matter of their conversation which, of course, is known only to them and that's their story and they're sticking to it. 

"What’s interesting is – what was the discussion about?” Ewert said. “To the extent that their conversation started to delve into matters within the subject matter jurisdiction of the school board, it could fall within the parameters of the Brown Act,” he told us.

He added, however, that if the four discussed “purely political items,” it likely would not violate the Brown Act.

It sure would violate the Common Sense Act, however.

There were no injuries.

For the record: Lauren Bianchi Klemann, spokesperson for the district, referred us to SBUSD’s Board Bylaws 9320, which permits members to congregate for “a purely social or ceremonial occasion.”

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Eggs Ackley Nov 07, 2018 11:42 AM
4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

~We must stamp out congeniality now! Make Santa Barbara great again!~ …or just a bit less pathetic. Is that too much to hope for? Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate

RHS Nov 07, 2018 10:09 AM
4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

Jerry Roberts' lack of objectivity and diligence in this 'news' story is absurd. He has no sense of gravitas. He is an embarrassment on television and here. This is not news and it is not a scandal without some actual investigation.

Factotum Nov 07, 2018 09:55 AM
4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

Choosing to hold elected office means you swear to commit to the letter and intent of the Brown Act: BROWN ACT PREAMBLE: Public commissions, boards, councils and other legislative bodies of local government agencies exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. The people do not yield their sovereignty to the bodies that serve them. The people insist on remaining informed to retain control over the legislative bodies they have created.

K9karma Nov 07, 2018 09:46 AM
4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

Jerry, there you go, being a tabloid hack again. How about doing a bit more research and trying to find out what they were actually discussing before making an unfounded allegations? You’re supposed to be a journalist, not a gossip columnist.

a-1545077153 Nov 07, 2018 09:08 AM
4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

It is absolutely true that the Democratic Party in particular has been corroding the barriers between "non-partisan" elections and their activity. The worst example in this local election was the effort to get Darcel Elliott a starter job on the SBCC Board by arbitrarily trying to knock off one of the best people on that board, Marsha Croninger. Fortunately they were embarrassed badly in this effort which must have cost them a few bucks. Unfortunately it also cost the attacked person money and unnecessary stress. Can't we get the local political committees to come to some agreement to stay out of non-partisan campaigns?

Factotum Nov 07, 2018 09:19 AM
4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

Das Williams protoge Darcel Elliot did build up a very impressive political war chest. Wonder how she intends to spend it now. Obviously she was not interested in the SBCC seat, because she clearly did not resonate with the voters in the SBCC district she was running in. Obviously she is setting her sights somewhere else. Along with those who funded her very large political war chest. Follow the money on this young lady. The significant campaign war chest left-overs are now hers to spend, but within campaign finance guidelines. What is her next move.

Luvaduck Nov 07, 2018 08:28 AM
4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

You guys occasionally have meals with people you work with? Tables of CHIPs or other law enforcement people--in uniform!--eating together offend you? May all your worries be so trivial.

Factotum Nov 07, 2018 09:10 AM
4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

Read the Brown Act. Those choosing to be elected public officials are held to a much higher standard. To flaunt the spirit of the Brown Act is a show of elected official arrogance; not sociability.

a-1545077153 Nov 06, 2018 09:36 PM
4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

As long as they didn’t discuss “work”, socializing could be a good thing, promoting relatedness between board members, thus allowing the board to function better. Don’t make mountains out of molehills.

Factotum Nov 06, 2018 11:45 PM
4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

Brown Act already made a mountain out of this sort of inappropriate elected official conduct. Too late. Read it carefully and understand both the letter and the spirit of the law. Poor judgement call on their part and looks like the voters took note as well. Their job is not to get along with each other. Their job is to represent the public and get school outcomes for our students out of the basement.

a-1545077153 Nov 06, 2018 04:18 PM
4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

Technically fine if they weren't talking politics, but should elected officials really be socializing together? If you create social relationships outside the professional arena, those relationships are going to create SIGNIFICANT subconscious and conscious bias, affecting how you interact with these same people in the professional environment. They would be better to avoid it altogether, in support of keeping political decision-makers unbiased and effective! "Technically right" is not a good look...

a-1545077153 Nov 06, 2018 03:54 PM
4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

Meeting in a public place like that, they could easily be overheard. It does seem unwise of them to meet, but it is truly possible they were on the up and up. Come on, let's hear from the other breakfast-goers and waitstaff: did you hear what they were talking about?

Bob Wilson Nov 06, 2018 02:52 PM
4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

Why should a group of Democrats worry about a silly thing like the Brown Act? Even if they were caught red handed violating it, they'd be protected by the rest of the Santa Barbara Democrat cabal. The Democrat monopoly in this town is slowly but surely ruining everything it touches.

Factotum Nov 06, 2018 03:11 PM
4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

They are elected public officials. They signed up for the job and know what rules apply to them - even during the private hours of their lives. Roberts is also claiming the appearances of a conflict of interest, not just the technicalities of the Brown Act, which should have been on their minds as well; even if not legally required. But how would anyone know - were they working as a super majority to influence the outcome of the next SBUSD election? That is what raises the suspicions when gathering of elected public officials takes place outside of public knowledge or notice. Bad call on their parts. If they don't want these burdens placed on their private lives, then they should resign from their chosen public positions. And forfeit any possible lifetime public pension benefits as well.

Always_Running Nov 06, 2018 02:45 PM
4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

Kate Parker...you’ve lost my vote. As if you aren’t discussing who you’ve voted for or why their policy is better then another one. Next time start a private group text thread like the rest of us!

a-1545077153 Nov 06, 2018 03:04 PM
4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

You are either very thin skinned or a blatant liar... very hard to believe you *were* going to vote for Kate Parker until she had breakfast with this group.

PitMix Nov 06, 2018 02:29 PM
4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

Jerry Roberts is starting to get like the national media. I guess trying to get a member to confirm that they did discuss school business and then publishing the story is just too hard- it's easier to publish a story that someone somewhere might have violated a rule and if they did it would be really bad. Where there is smoke there must be fire. If it is good enough for the national media publishing Trump lies as if they are news, and Georgia Governor-candidate allegations of hacking with no proof, then it is good enough for our local sources.

EMI Photo Nov 06, 2018 01:48 PM
4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

How dare they eat breakfast! The nerve of public servants. Its a slippery slope that will inevitably lead to them eating lunch, dinner and worst case scenario, dessert! (silly jabs at political opponents deserve silly responses)

Factotum Nov 06, 2018 01:30 PM
4 SBUSD Trustees Share Alleged Brown Act Breakfast

Working even "socially and informally" as an elected super majority on behalf of partisan interests to ensure certain favored candidates get elected does expose the unhealthy climate that prevails in too many of our locl "non-partisan" elections. GOTV is of course a neutral sentiment of political engagement on its face; except this partisan crowd uses partisan voting lists to make sure they get out only fellow Democrats to vote. GOTDV is the better term for this activity - Get Out the Democrat Vote. Stakes are high - the Democrat Party and their teacher union cronies want your money. Too bad they do not care about plummeting SBUSD student outcomes, with as much collective zeal.

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