CO$T alleges ongoing MMWD Brown Act Violations, Sends Cease and Desist Demands.
On March 22 and May 15, 2019, CO$T sent MMWD cease and desist letters demanding compliance with the Ralph M. Brown Act. The Brown Act guarantees the public’s right to participate in local public legislative meetings. It requires advance notice, agenda posting, and public access standards. CO$T demands that MMWD cease specific Brown Act violations and desist from future ones.
CO$T’s initial complaint was prompted by violations that occurred in the MMWD Board of Directors’ development of a rate hike and new fee proposal.CO$T alleges such violations impeded the public’s right to know about, and participate in, the board’s consideration of the rate and fee plan as it was being developed. Of particular concern were meetings, posted on the Committee calendar, in which a majority of the board participated and guided staff on the design of a rate / fee proposal and the ratepayer notice required by Proposition 218. Further, the agendas for these meetings did not clearly state that documents concerning proposed rate increases and new fees, or a Proposition 218 notice, would be discussed.
CO$T’s latest complaint alleges improper use of Special Meetings. The Brown Act requires 72 hour public notice and agenda posting prior to Board meetings. Special meetings require only 24 hour notice. What were regularly scheduled meetings posted on the Committee calendar but attended by a board majority — the subject or our initial Brown Act complaint — are now listed as Special Board meetings. This potentially subverts the 72 hour notice requirement while attempting to legitimize Board meetings at 9:30AM on weekdays when the public can’t attend.
CO$T has referred our information about alleged Brown Act violations to the Mann County District Attorney’s Office, which we believe has independently investigated related concerns.
CO$T’s attorney’s letters to MMWD have also asked for more full public access and transparency to its Board and Committee meetings. These include videotaping and promptly posting all board and committee meetings as is done at all similarly sized Marin agencies; and making available 72 hours in advance final staff reports and PowerPoint presentations used at Board and Committee meetings.
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About CO$T: The Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers advocates on behalf of the rights and interests of Marin taxpayers and ratepayers. CO$T is a nonpartisan, tax-exempt organization. CO$T’s 501(c)4 is recognized by the IRS as a social welfare organization. The CO$T Foundation, a 501(c)3, conducts educational, research, and other qualified activities funded with tax-deductible donations.