Did Rialto violate Brown Act?
A majority of the council joined representatives from several local government agencies in a meeting on Feb. 27 with Rep. Joe Baca, D-San Bernardino.
Under California's Ralph M. Brown Act, a majority of an agency cannot meet "to hear, discuss, or deliberate upon any item that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body or the local agency."
Officials from San Bernardino County, Colton, Rialto, the West Valley Water District, Fontana Union Water Co. and the state met with Baca to discuss the formation of a joint-powers authority to lobby for federal money to clean up chemicals - primarily perchlorate - contaminating local drinking water.
"Whenever the council gets together in a majority fashion to deal with something of official significance to the city - that is a meeting," said Terry Francke, general counsel and founder of Californians Aware, a nonprofit that promotes government disclosure.
"For a meeting like that, the law requires that the time, place and subject matter of discussion be posted for any remote meeting like that."
In addition, Francke said the public must be able to attend, even if the meeting is out of state.
When the meeting with Baca began, only two Rialto council members - Winnie Hanson and Baca's son, Joe Baca Jr. - took part.
"I didn't want there to be any perception
that there would be a Brown Act violation," Councilman Ed Scott said.
But Rep. Baca told Scott he could attend the meeting because no decisions were going to be made.
Scott said the Brown Act was not violated because the meeting consisted of Baca talking to the local officials.
"It's just ridiculous," Scott said about suggestions that the Brown Act was violated.
Scott said he would contact the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Public Integrity Unit to ask for a formal inquiry.
In this case, the only sanction the council members could face is an admonishment not to do it again, Deputy District Attorney Frank Vanella said Friday.
"I've had no phone call," he said.
Rep. Baca said the Brown Act was not violated.
"If it was about Rialto and Rialto only and no others being involved, then it would be a violation of the Brown Act," he said.
Colton Mayor Kelly Chastain said she stayed out of the meeting due to concerns that she would violate the Brown Act.