Jack Durham: NHUHSD Violates Brown Act – January 13, 2012

Friday, January 13, 2012

As reported in last week’s McKinleyville Press, the Board of Trustees of the Northern Humboldt Union High School recently held a secret meeting – a clear violation of state open meeting laws.

To recap: On Dec. 1 four trustees gathered to interview four candidates who applied to fill a vacant board seat. Under the Ralph M. Brown Act, an agenda must be posted for such a meeting. That didn’t happen.

This resulted in the public being excluded from a meeting that involved an important topic – the leadership of our local high schools.

So how did this happen? It appears that it was simply a clerical error. The person responsible for posting the agenda either forgot to do so, or didn’t know that the meeting was subject to the Brown Act. There’s no evidence of any malice or that a covert agenda was at play.

Some sympathy is in order for the hard-working office staffers working under a mountain of paperwork in the educational bureaucracy.

But what about the four board members who attended the illegal meeting? Why didn’t they notice the lack of an agenda? Did they ever notice the public’s absence, or think about how the citizens might want to question the board candidates themselves? Apparently not.

So what should the board do now? How can it remedy its mistake? Here are two suggestions for the board:

1. Hit the books and do some homework regarding the requirements of the Brown Act. Perhaps a short training session at a board meeting would be helpful.

2. Come up with a policy addressing procedures for interviewing future board candidates. Besides following state law and posting an agenda, the board should include citizens in the actual process of asking questions and interviewing the candidates.

Jack Durham is editor and publisher of the McKinleyville Press.

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