Friday, February 15, 2008

VTA Board restructuring and Brown Act

While the San Jose City Council is facing a Brown Act controversy concerning the naming of "Saigon Business District," the VTA Board (which quite a few members are also on the San Jose City Council) didn't seem to conform with the Brown Act either by discussing possible board restructuring at its meeting last week.

Margaret Okuzumi of BayRail Alliance wrote a letter to the VTA General Counsel requesting a review over the board's conformance with the Brown Act, which generally prohibits any governing board from discussing or taking action on matters that are not on the agenda.

"I was surprised then to personally witness at the VTA board meeting of Thursday, February 7, 2008, a discussion by at least four members of the board of a proposed VTA board restructuring proposal, which was not listed on the board agenda. As far as I'm aware, there was not a motion to put this item on the agenda; rather it was discussed under the Chairperson's (Verbal) Report.

"At the end of the meeting I remarked that this was a violation of the Brown Act and I believe it still is. It's especially disturbing to me that, this item was not on the paper agenda distributed at the meeting, nor do I recall it being on the electronic agenda on VTA's website that I viewed just prior to leaving my house to attend the meeting, but some time later the item appeared on the website and it appears the electronic agenda was modified retroactively to show that the item was on the agenda. The written Board Governance Recommendations Report, as distributed at the February 7 meeting, did not list what item it was to be discussed under...

"I was disturbed to hear announced that this VTA board restructuring proposal was planned to be presented by VTA staff member Jim Lawson to numerous cities in the county this month, all this apparently being arranged before the proposal has been considered in an duly noticed fashion by the VTA board itself. I was also disturbed to hear board member Greg Sellers state that there was a desire to have the VTA board vote on the proposal at the next board meeting in March. I was surprised to hear member Casas offer that he didn't have a personal gripe with giving up his seat to board member Kishimoto due to her interest and experience; it was as if he had accepted this was going to be the case. It appears that there have been behind-the-scenes discussions about this proposal and arrangements being worked out of the public view.

"For something as important as determining how cities are represented on the VTA board and powers distributed among them, it is a disservice to the public interest for these discussions to be cloaked from public view and a proposal developed by a subcommittee of one member appointed by the board so that subcommittee deliberations were not noticed or subject to the Brown Act."

VTA responded that it takes the Brown Act seriously and will address Margaret's concerns by having the item properly agendized for an upcoming meeting, possibly in March.

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