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Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Wednesday, Oct 8, 2014

darrylmanzer_blacktieThere are lots of people who think certain government bodies, elected and appointed, should be disbanded until some new folks can come and do the job right. Congress is on the list, and that gets changed come November, at least locally.

There are smaller and lesser known public organizations that owe their existence either to a definite need or some political game that those elected want us to see. The most egregious of these institutions in Los Angeles County is the plethora of “town councils” in the various unincorporated areas.

Here in the SCV, we are most familiar with the Acton, Agua Dulce and Castaic Area town councils. These councils are made up of citizens who want to do something good for the community they live in or, in the case of at least one of them, they want to be more aware of planning and land development issues for their own benefit.

It is for the impartiality required – and since they advise our county supervisors and even sign contracts or agreements as representatives – that the Brown Act and the Public Records Act were adopted. The Agua Dulce Town Council learned the reason for the acts when, in 2005, they were sued and lost in court over compliance with the state’s open-meeting law (the Brown Act).

The Political Reform Act requires, among other things, the filing of Form 700 by each individual of an elected body. That form is a financial disclosure by the individual serving on whatever government board, committee, commission and others to show if there has been or could be any monetary gain from any actions he or she might take as a member of that body.

Some citizens of the Castaic area have requested the reports for the members of the Castaic Area Town Council. The reply they got was simple: “Agua Dulce Town Council is a ‘chartered’ entity, while the Castaic Area Town Council is incorporated since it has articles of incorporation.”

Well, the state of California says that “chartered” or “incorporated” are the same. Plus, the Agua Dulce Town Council was “incorporated,” too, in 1994, with articles of incorporation and by-laws and everything.

Note that by signing the mitigation agreement with Chiquita Canyon Landfill, the Castaic Area Town Council moved from an “advisory” to a “legislative” body. Thus the requirement for Form 700 submissions by the members is mandatory.

So I continued reading, and guess what? The vote to accept the agreement with Chiquita wasn’t a vote in favor at all.

The by-laws of the Castaic Area Town Council state that in order to sign any contract as the Castaic Area Town Council, there must be a two-thirds majority vote by the council to approve.

Guess what? The vote was 6 yes and 4 no. That isn’t a two-thirds vote, my friends, unless the Castaic Union School District has changed the rules of arithmetic since I was a student there.

Under its own by-laws, 6 to 4 is “no pass.” The Castaic Area Town Council actually rejected the agreement with Chiquita. Wonder if they know?

I recently learned that in order to file an application to run for the Castaic Area Town Council, one has to submit a $50 filing fee. Huh? This is for a voluntary and unpaid position? Strange.

When folks in the Castaic area asked for something as simple as the information on the financial disclosure forms, members of the Castaic Area Town Council “lawyered up” and had a letter sent that said the law doesn’t apply to them.

Guess what? It did apply to Acton, Agua Dulce and just about every other organization that in some way works within our governmental process. Just what makes the Castaic Area Town Council so special? Just what do they think would be revealed by submitting the required forms?

If they have nothing to hide, maybe they should do it and follow the law.

At the least, I would recommend they seek more competent legal representation. The legal precedent was so well established in 2005 that even I, an engineering type, can understand it.

Since they have decided to fight it, I can only assume they must have something to hide. Wouldn’t anyone think the same?

Whatever the problem is with the Castaic Area Town Council, it only points to a larger problem within our county. Let’s say the county population is someplace around 13 million. That means each of the five county supervisors could have 2.6 million people to represent. Each supervisor does need folks on the town councils who care and are not self-serving in any way. The one way to make sure that can happen is for each and every town council to be funded by the county so they don’t have to get sponsored by companies or corporations that might not have the best interests of the community in mind.

The various councils, commissions and committee folks also shouldn’t be allowed to approve financial contracts with any company, since only the elected supervisors are to do that.

So now you know I’m just a little tough on this subject. I want our local government to be for the people and not for some company. Really … how would all y’all feel if a company gave the supervisors a bunch of money and then told them how to spend it?

Well, that is just what Chiquita did to and with the Castaic Area Town Council. And the Castaic Area Town Council is supposed to be a representative body that’s an official part of the decision-making process. Right?

Also, don’t go comparing the Castaic Area Town Council with the Val Verde Civic Association. The VVAC is not a government organization but rather a volunteer civic group that is private. Sort of like an HOA. The VVCA reports only to its members and not to the county.

Folks will only be as crooked as they can be until they are caught with their fingers in the cookie jar. Until they follow the law, we can’t be sure just where their fingers have been.

If they insist on not following the law, I suggest the county of Los Angeles withhold funds from town council elections in Castaic. Why should county taxpayers pay to run an election of something that is not following the law?

Answers, please? Anyone?

 

 


Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com. His older commentaries are archived at DManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

Comment On This Story
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6 Comments

  1. Bonnie Nikolai says:

    What part of this commentary isn’t factual?

    • SCVNews.com says:

      The comment you’re referring to was left by a user (actually the only user) who has been banned from this site for reason of fraudulently posting under fake names. The comment has been removed.

  2. Susie Evans says:

    Ok, I missed that comment from her….Anyway, I am so glad you wrote about this. I am happy to hear that someone else see’s the CATC and their operations as I do…..they must follow the Brown Act. I am still trying to understand why someone must pay a filing fee of $50 to be on a volunteer board. Our VVCA does a wonderful job of letting us know when the meetings are, what topics are on the agenda and the minutes of the meeting. Very open for all residents.

  3. Natalie Tate says:

    Thank Mr. Manzer and the SCVNews.com for your integrity.

  4. Natalie Tate says:

    Thank you Mr. Manzer and SCVNews.com for your integrity.

  5. Greg Kimura says:

    Hi Susie,

    Thanks for the compliment. I try to guide my Board by telling them to listen to the residents of the community. It’s easy to think that we know what’s best for everyone, but until we listen to the people, how can we know?

    I appreciate you coming to our meetings and letting us know how you feel. Our Board has heard the message loud and clear. The current expansion Draft EIR is not acceptable and the residents are not pleased with the sludge the landfill has brought in (which is against their permit and the agreement with Val Verde). We also know that the community has odor issues, which stem from the landfill operations and their lack of utilizing state of the art technology and effective odor mitigation techniques. Further, we know that the community is upset about the landfill’s blatant lie about not accepting nuclear waste from Rocketdyne.

    One big questions from the community is that they have been caught lying to the community. How many other things have they done that we don’t know about? What is the health risk from these activities? The residents would like to know.

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