Case in point the July 12th meeting of the Madera County Board of Supervisors where a closed session item was listed on the agenda for the reviewing of salaries for the elected department heads (Auditor, Tax Collector, Assessor, Sheriff and District Attorney) as well as the five members of the Madera County Board of Supervisors. They were going to hide behind a closed session meeting in a back room and discuss how much more money they wanted to pay themselves.
2.f. 1896: Request for Closed Session:
Conference with Labor Negotiators, pursuant to Government Code Section 54957.6,
County Negotiators: Eric Fleming and Adrienne Calip,
Unrepresented Employee: Assessor, Auditor-Controller, Board ofSupervisors (Members), Clerk-Recorder, District Attorney, Sheriff, Treasurer-Tax Collector
When Big Valley News pointed out that California Government Code Section 54957.6 expressly forbade any closed session meetings regarding elected officials or legislatures, the item was removed from the agenda and moved to the next open meeting on August 9, 2016. So, Tuesday's agenda item read:
6.m. 2020: COUNTY ADMINISTRATION DEPARTMENT/HUMAN RESOURCES OPERATIONS DIVISION
Discussion and direction to staff regarding the Salary Structure for the following Elected Officials: Assessor, Auditor-Controller, Board of Supervisors, Clerk-Recorder, District Attorney, Sheriff, Treasurer-Tax Collector.
So at 9:30am I sat and waited for item 6.m. to come up. I sat through all the consent items where the board voted to move forward with acquiring a Historical Building Status over the old Madera County Library on West Yosemite Avenue so they could continue to use the building and have some protections from the Federal American's with Disabilities Act of 1992 since the building is not accessible to the handicap. I waited and watched the board decide whether they were going to accept a donation of $26,438.60 from the Stewards of the Sierra National Forest which is specifically to be earmarked to fund the Black Hawk Ranch Archaeological Study.
The most interesting part of the Black Hawk item was how Barbara Bigelow, wife of current Assemblyman and former Madera County Supervisor Frank Bigelow, accurately corrected the board and the Madera County Council on how they were illegally proceeding on this item that failed at the last meeting. Mrs. Bigelow was met with interruptions and disrespect from both Supervisor Tom Wheeler and Chairman Rick Farinelli.
When we broke for lunch Supervisor David Rogers jumped into the car of Supervisor Max Rodriguez. But after lunch Rogers returned to the Madera County Government Center Parking garage with Supervisor Rick Farinelli. Did they all have lunch together? Did this quorum of supervisors violated the Brown Act by meeting privately outside of the board room?
After lunch I witnessed two grown men forgetting that their were respected leaders in this community and act like children with the Madera County Clerk of the Board. When Chief Clerk Rhonda Cargill called for a vote from Supervisor Tom Wheeler his answer was "Maybe." When she asked for Supervisor Max Rodriguez's vote he said "Present." Her answer to both of them was, "Is that a yes?"
My first thought was, "Are they drunk?" But then I thought there is no way these two professional men would come into the boardroom intoxicated. Then on the next vote they did it again. During a hearing on the PACE program Supervisor Wheeler used disrespectful language (said SHIT) three times. Twice he directed this at two female community members discussing the program in public comment and later Wheeler yelled out at a county employee during the meeting, "I don't want to hear any of that Shit"
Even now, I still have trouble convincing myself he was intoxicated. The thought only persists because I have no better explanation for such unprofessional behavior towards staff and constituents.
Finally...a little after 4:00PM...when the all other members of the public had finally given up and left for the day, the board finally got to item 6.m. There was no one left in the board room seats except for this one reporter from Big Valley News. The same reporter that broke the original story about the illegal closed session item last month. An illegal session that had something to do with salaries and elected officials. Of course, that is all the details I had at that point, because of course when the board released the usual details to inform the public about upcoming agenda items, there was nothing specific about 6.m.
Madera County CAO Eric Fleming got up and basically said that neither the board nor county council did anything wrong with wanting to meet in closed session in July and though never mentioning me or BVN, we got the California Government Code Section 54957.6 wrong.
Cal Gov Code 54957.6.
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a legislative body of a local agency may hold closed sessions with the local agency’s designated representatives regarding the salaries, salary schedules, or compensation paid in the form of fringe benefits of its represented and unrepresented employees, and, for represented employees, any other matter within the statutorily provided scope of representation.
However, prior to the closed session, the legislative body of the local agency shall hold an open and public session in which it identifies its designated representatives.
Closed sessions of a legislative body of a local agency, as permitted in this section, shall be for the purpose of reviewing its position and instructing the local agency’s designated representatives.
Closed sessions, as permitted in this section, may take place prior to and during consultations and discussions with representatives of employee organizations and unrepresented employees.
Closed sessions with the local agency’s designated representative regarding the salaries, salary schedules, or compensation paid in the form of fringe benefits may include discussion of an agency’s available funds and funding priorities, but only insofar as these discussions relate to providing instructions to the local agency’s designated representative.
Closed sessions held pursuant to this section shall not include final action on the proposed compensation of one or more unrepresented employees.
For the purposes enumerated in this section, a legislative body of a local agency may also meet with a state conciliator who has intervened in the proceedings.
(b) For the purposes of this section, the term “employee” shall include an officer or an independent contractor who functions as an officer or an employee, but shall not include any elected official, member of a legislative body, or other independent contractors.
See the problem Mr. Fleming didn't want to point out to his board Tuesday was that Big Valley news read the whole section and Mr. Fleming's 27 year old outsourced county council only read the beginning of the section. While the section does allow for a closed session meeting for discussion of employee issues, section "b" is clear that "An employee shall not include any elected official".
I think Lozano Smith Attorney Corporation, our outsourced county council since Fleming fired all the county's own attorney's (or sent them to live their lives on a farm) might want to do an employment evaluation of the attorney they sent us (behind closed doors of course).
When Fleming was done talking about how each of the members of the Madera County Board of Supervisors would be getting at least another $20,000 on their pay checks next year plus another 10% longevity pay from their Uncle Eric, it was my turn to talk. After waiting from 9:30am to 4pm and watching all the unprofessional behaviors from these men, it was my turn to talk. After watching them interrupt people and belittle people for having opinions different than theirs all day long, it was my turn to talk.
All I could think of was "Shame on you". Shame on Eric Fleming for hiding the details of this item and for having originally tried to hide this whole meeting from the public by illegally holding it in closed session. Shame on Eric Fleming for lying to his board about what the government code actually said. Shame on Chairman Rick Farinelli for allowing any of this to happen after having spent his entire campaign claiming to be the only candidate that supported a fully transparent county government with nothing to hide from the public.
At this point everything dropped away except two goals at the front of my thoughts. First, stay on point about protecting the public's right to know and second, don't let Mr. Farinelli goad me into cussing him out. Then it happened. When I demanded Rick Farinelli resign for his part in hiding this $20,000 a year raise, he interrupted me. After watching women like Barbara Bigelow be disrespected and interrupted, after hearing a county supervisor direct profanity at the public in a meeting, after hearing the CAO lie about the work I did to uncover this secret raise. My only answer was, "Mr. Farinelli would you SHUT UP and stop interrupting me. Over 62% of the voters rejected your return to the board and you need to resign."
That was met with Eric Fleming . yelling for security and the board of supervisors screaming at me. I was being thrown out of the board chambers because I had the nerve to demand redress of my elected officials on the topic of my grievances. Something our fore-fathers said was my right. Was I violent? No. How coulld I be? Three out of the five superviors carry permitted concealed weapons on them. There was security in the back of the room. I told someone that was interupting me to shut up. Polite? No. But neither was the interuption. I must admit though that after all the crap we all endured during Farinelli's hioefully last campaign, it sure felt good to say it out loud. I would highly recommend it to anyone tired of the BS that has been going on far too long at the Madera County Government Center.
There are problems at the Government Center and they will not go away in December when Farinelli does. They won't go away if the wizard gives Wheeler courage or Rodriguez a conscince. They won't even go away if David Rogers finally gets a brain. The only way anything is going to get any better for Madera County is if the board of supervisors stops drinking the Kool-Aid that Fleming feeds them and realize they're his boss.
Eric Fleming needs to realize that the board of supervisors are not his employees who he can give direction to but rather the board of supervisors need to give Fleming proper direction out the door. And this boys clubs on the board needs to remember the we the voters of Madera are their bosses. We will no longer stand for the disrespect when we have an issue in front of the board. Interrupt us and we will call you on it. Don't like it and we will vote you out.
Rick Farinelli hasn't quite got it in his head yet. But the voters have spoken and come December it should be very clear to him. The voters said it time for Rick Farinelli to BE QUIET!
Ok that is what I should have said.
BY THE WAY THE FULL VIDEO IS AVAILABE AT THE MADERA-COUNTY.com website, but the audio is so bad you will have a hard time hearing anything. Just the way Rick and Eric like it. I just wonder if this BIG raise to the board will effect the sales tax increase for the public safety?