Monday, January 11, 2016

Community Venture Partners wins for the People!

Community Venture Partners, Inc. Granted Declaratory Relief on its Petition Against the Marin County Board of Supervisors for Violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act

Marin County Superior Court Judge Rules that Marin County Supervisors Violated California’s Open Meetings Laws Established to Ensure Government Transparency

Mill Valley, California – Jan 11, 2016:   Community Venture Partners, Inc. (“CVP”), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to social justice, environmental sustainability, and the importance of community participation in government decision-making, has been successful in its Petition charging the Marin County Board of Supervisors with violating California’s Open Meetings Law.

On January 4th, Marin Superior Court Judge, Roy O. Chernus, issued his final decision in the case of Community Venture Partners vs. the County of Marin, ruling in favor of CVP, and finding that the Marin Board of Supervisors knowingly failed to provide public notice for a planned hearing on the Marin County Housing Element, in the summer of 2014.  The ruling granted CVP Declaratory Relief and contained numerous citations of case law and relevant facts substantiating the cause of action.

California’s Ralph M. Brown Act is intended to ensure the public’s right to attend meetings of public agencies. Its purpose is that public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State, exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It is the intent of the law that their actions and deliberations be conducted openly.  

The Court stated that it “rejects the County’s suggestion that the statute was not violated,” and that “the agenda rule of the statute is unambiguous” in its requirement to notify the public. Judge Chernus went on to say, “In light of County Counsel’s refusal to admit a violation, the court is justified in presuming Respondent [the County] will continue similar practices” and thus was compelled to grant Declaratory Relief.

Petitioner's counsel, Edward Yates, noted, "CVP is very pleased with Judge Chernus' decision holding that the Marin County Board of Supervisors violated the state Open Meetings Act's requirements that local agencies provide public notice for all discussion items. CVP did not go into this case looking for a legal battle but instead only made the request that the County abide by the Brown Act and not hold discussions without public notice.” Mr. Yates went on to say, “The County not only refused to agree to this simple request but also disparaged CVP's case in the press, and in its pleadings.”

Bob Silvestri, founder and president of CVP added, “The Ralph M. Brown Act is the cornerstone of participatory government in California. It ensures the public’s right to be involved in government decision making. What was so disturbing in this case was that the County’s decision to not provide public notice of a hearing, on a topic of intense public interest, was not an oversight, and throughout the proceedings, the County continued to try to defend their right to not provide notice. One can only hope the County will be more circumspect in the future.”

About Community Venture Partners

Community Venture Partners, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on social justice, environmental sustainability and committed to promoting a transparent, "bottom up" public process that incorporates under-served community voices into government decision-making.

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