Group claims EUSD violated the Brown Act


An attorney representing Californians Aware on Sept. 10 presented the Encinitas Union School District with a letter demanding it correct alleged Brown Act violations related to an August retreat.

The Brown Act guarantees the public’s right to attend and take part in elected officials’ meetings.

The letter says EUSD violated the Brown Act since a majority of its five-member board last month attended a retreat for administrators at La Quinta Resort & Club in Palm Springs.

It also states EUSD has 30 days to publicly rescind any actions it may have taken during the retreat. Additionally, the document goes on to say the district must pledge to abide by the Brown Act in the future.

Otherwise, a lawsuit from Californians Aware, an open-government advocacy group, may follow, according to the letter.

In response to concern from some parents, EUSD Superintendent Tim Baird has said the retreat was exempt from the Brown Act, because board members didn’t help craft the agenda or debate board business.

In a Sept. 15 email, Baird said he stands by his position. He added the district’s attorney is reviewing the letter.

Attorney Kelly Aviles disagreed with Baird’s stance in the letter on behalf of Californians Aware.

“There is nothing in the Brown Act or case law that requires the board to initiate the retreat or build in the agenda — mere attendance and discussion is sufficient,” the letter says.

Aviles quoted from Frazer vs. Dixon Unified School District, a 1993 Court of Appeal case, as evidence.

“When the majority of a local legislative body attends a meeting dealing with its agency’s issues, even though it may neither discuss nor act upon matters connected with those issues, its mere presence to obtain information presented at the meeting is sufficient to trigger the open meeting requirements of the Brown Act,” the case concluded.

Aviles said EUSD also ran afoul of the Brown Act by holding the retreat outside of the district. Doing so was yet another barrier for participation, she added.

The three-day retreat, attended by 28 administrators and three board members, cost taxpayers $8,138, according to records. A trip itinerary indicates time was divided between management exercises, social events and relaxation.

Baird has argued it’s common for school districts and their boards to go outside their communities on management retreats and politically motivated parents are unfairly singling out the district.

Initially, parents and a group of parents raised concerns about the cost of the retreat.

Should Californians Aware pursue litigation, it would seek to recover court costs and attorney fees.

This article has been updated since its original posting to reflect comment from Superintendent Baird.