Ed. Note: The following email was sent to City Attorney Claudia Quintana and members of city council etc. by Vallejo resident John Osborne
Mare Island Straits Economic Development Committee Cure and Correct
Hello Ms. Quintana (Claudia)
Since our last conversation I have given a great deal of thought to the upcoming Special Meeting of the City Council, to the remedies for the probable Brown Act violation, and the implications of related information that continues to surface in the news and from community activists searching for information on the Mare Island Straits Economic Development Committee. I am pleased that you share my concern over the appearance of a possible Brown Act violation related to the activities of the MISEDC. My initial suggestion that this committee be brought to light, authorized and the work shared was intended as a step towards trying to restore public trust in our City Council as well as collegial trust with those Council members who had no knowledge of this committee.
In light of information that has recently surfaced I remain more than ever concerned about bias of the MISEDC Council members towards the VMT/ORCEM project, but also bias against the Propel Vallejo preferred scenario that now looks to be far more significant than just a possible Brown Act violation. Vice Mayor Malgapo and the MISEDC used this committee to justify a resumption of federal maintenance dredging to the Army Corps of Engineers and appear to be working on a port scenario at direct odds with the city’s General Plan update. From his statements in a recent Times Herald article, any thought that Mr. Malgapo still has an open mind on these issues no longer looks credible. The level of staff involvement with a committee that had no formal sanction requires a detailed explanation and accounting, as does the lack of communication from staff and those Council members to the General Plan Working Group regarding obvious conflicts between the Propel Vallejo process and the goals of the MISEDC.
These issues would not be addressed by the Brown Act cure that you have suggested. However, it appears from an April 30, 2014 MISEDC agenda – attached here in case you have not seen it – that the Mayor was briefed about the MISEDC from its inception, and was aware of its initial goal regarding dredging. Given the subsequent talk he gave on May 20, 2015 at a MISEDC meeting, there is the appearance of serial meetings by a Council quorum to further the MISEDC goal as it applies to dredging. I know that you were present at a recent City Council meeting when Mayor Davis stated with certainty that the MISEDC was about dredging, further indicating his familiarity with the committee and its goals.
If you intend to implement a cure for this particular, likely Brown violation it should certainly be to undo the one official action taken as a result of that violation: the November 17, 2014 City letter requesting a Section 216 Initial Appraisal from the Army Corps of Engineers to study the resumption of maintenance dredging operations. That formal request demonstrably resulted from the extensive work of the MISEDC without the knowledge of three Council members, but with the likely knowledge of four.
The authorization for writing this letter appeared as the tenth and last item on a City Council special meeting’s consent agenda and on page 375 of a 377 page staff report. That request letter should be withdrawn along with any commitments that resulted from it because informed official consent was never given. The relevant information and its possible implications were intentionally withheld from some on the Council, while a quorum knew of the extensive research and lobbying already done in the City’s name. Rescinding that action and withdrawing the request to consider maintenance dredging would be an appropriate cure for what is certainly a Brown Act violation.
It is difficult to see how a vote to legitimize the MISEDC at this point could resolve the questions raised by the release of documents related to the committee. Mr. Malgapo would obviously be biased in voting to authorize his own committee, as would a majority of the City Council. If the four who knew about the MISEDC were required to recuse, the committee will certainly be disclaimed. If it does gets authorized on a four to three vote, how is that going to look? Even if it were to be authorized now, that would not address the fact that our City staff has been working on detailed projects for a committee with no formal approval, to advance a set of goals that conflict directly with the Propel Vallejo preferred scenario.
These are issues that need to be addressed and are not likely to be satisfied at a public hearing limited to the question of possible Brown Act violations. It now has become obvious that the MISEDC members and City staff very deliberately tried to work around their fellow Council members, the public and the Brown Act. Related information continues to surface and your suggested solution now appears inadequate to address all the questions raised by what we now already know about the activities of this ad hoc committee.
One cannot help but question the impact of the MISEDC on numerous votes of the Council, for example the Council Goals where the MISEDC goals were inserted without acknowledgement or discussion; the extension of the City Manager’s contract when three City Council members were unaware of his role enabling the MISEDC; the recommendation to hire additional staff for the City Manager’s office when it was not known how staff time was being diverted to this unauthorized committee; the hire of the current Community & Economic Development Director who heads the Propel Vallejo citizen’s initiative for the General Plan Update, while also being a member of the MISEDC working towards an altogether different plan. One has to wonder at the departure of the previous Community & Economic Development Director as we now know he questioned the MISEDC around the time of his departure.
Clear evidence may yet emerge of the extent of the Mayor’s knowledge of the MISEDC activity which would confirm a Brown Act violation and the appropriate cure. Trying to resolve the situation before all of the facts are known might look like an attempt to cover things up at a time when transparency and trust are at issue in the minds of the public.
I know that you share these concerns and that you will try to address them in an appropriate manner.
Thank you for your consideration,
Donald E. Osborne
P.S. – Stephen Hallett has posted nearly 250 items received in response to Freedom of Information requests regarding the MISEDC. On the chance you may not have seen all of these postings, I include a link to them here. All of these items have a direct bearing on what we will consider Tuesday evening: https://drive.google.
Note: All opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Vallejo Independent Bulletin.