OUSD Board President Rick Ledesma (file photo)
By Sentry Staff
OUSD Board President Rick Ledesma displayed his ignorance of laws governing public meetings during a July 14 “information only” session called to learn the results of a survey that measured voter support for a school bond measure.
The polling results addressed the possible outcome of a single districtwide bond, as well as the feasibility of dividing OUSD into Separate Facilities Improvement Districts (SFID), essentially floating one bond measure for Orange and El Modena High Schools, and another for Canyon and Villa Park. The detailed presentation indicated that a single general obligation bond would do better than SFIDs.
The board was slated to decide between the two concepts at its meeting, July 21. But Ledesma wanted to “give staff direction” rather than ask it to create the necessary resolutions, gather all the data and draft the language for the various alternatives.
“I don’t want staff to have to do all that,” he explained. “Let’s see what the consensus is on the board, so staff will know which way we think we’re going.”
That would have required a vote, which wasn’t on the agenda.
The arm of the law
“Wait,” Kathy Moffat interjected. “We can’t vote on an item without giving the public notice. It has to be on the agenda. It would be a violation of the Brown Act.”
The Brown Act precludes any governing board from addressing any item without publishing the information in advance. Agendas must be posted at least three days in advance to let the public know what actions will be taken, and what items will be addressed. In emergencies, a 24-hour heads up is sufficient.
“This isn’t an emergency,” Superintendent Michael Christensen advised. “The community knows what we’re doing,” Ledesma answered. “All I’m asking is to give staff direction so we don’t waste money on staff time.”
“And that requires a vote,” Moffat repeated. “And we can’t do it tonight.”
“Time is short,” Ledesma insisted. “I don’t want to waste another week to decide what we’re going to do. I can give staff direction if I want to.”
“This should have been thought out ahead of time,” Mark Wayland interjected. “This meeting is for information. We could have agendized a vote, but we didn’t. I’m not voting on anything.”
“Just let staff prepare for all the scenarios,” Tim Surridge advised.
Stickin' to it
The Brown Act was not vioated during the July 14 meeting, but on July 21, Ledesma was still stewing about it. When asked about his unexpected vote to create SFIDs, he diverted into a defense of actions the previous week. “I wanted to give staff direction last week,” he recounted. “But my colleagues were against it. So now we have all these resolutions. I knew it was going to be confusing. I just wanted to vote on a general obligation bond, but now another week has passed.”
Ledesma further pronounced that since July 14, people had urged him to go the SFID route, that Orange High voters want an SFID, and that the board’s delay in decision-making opened up another week for lobbying. Alexia Deligianni-Brydges pointed out that the board was not delaying anything, but that it couldn’t vote earlier because it was an information only item.
“We were just following protocol,” Andrea Yamasaki stressed.
Had the board voted in violation of the Brown Act and a citizen complained, the meeting and illegal vote could have been nullified.