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Open-government group drops litigation threat against EUSD

The Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) board recently pledged — for the second time — to follow open-government laws, resulting in a watchdog group dropping a potential lawsuit.

Californians Aware, a nonprofit dedicated to government transparency, threatened litigation in September after at least three district board members attended an EUSD administrative retreat in Palm Springs.

The nonprofit claimed that because a majority of the board members were present, this violated the Ralph M. Brown Act, which guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in public meetings. EUSD also ran afoul of the Brown Act, Californians Aware argued, by holding a retreat outside the district with board members in attendance.

Californians Aware stated in a September letter that EUSD must rescind any actions taken during the retreat and pledge to abide by the Brown Act going forward, or face a lawsuit.

At its Nov. 18 meeting, the EUSD board approved a response letter in open session stating that without admitting any violation, the district will refrain from the challenged practices in the future and follow the Brown Act. Also, the letter states the board members didn’t take any action during the retreat.

Californians Aware now considers the matter closed.

“It does satisfy our demand and we are pleased that this was able to be resolved without the need for litigation,” said Kelly Aviles, an attorney representing Californians Aware, in an email.

Prior to the Nov. 30 meeting, the EUSD board sought to move past the alleged Brown Act violations, but Californians Aware was unappeased.

The board approved a similar letter Sept. 30 in closed session, and the board’s action was later announced in open session. A week later, Aviles said this wasn’t enough to comply with Government Code, stating EUSD needed to publicly notice the agenda item and approve the Brown Action corrections in open session.

Superintendent Tim Baird has repeatedly disputed that the board violated the Brown Act. He said last month that the retreat was dedicated to training administrative staff and that board members didn’t craft the itinerary.

Nonetheless, he has stated that the board complied with the demands of Californians Aware to avoid a lawsuit.

“This board always puts the interests of the district ahead of their own,” Baird said after the board adopted the September letter. “It would probably be more satisfying for them to fight this fight and be proven correct in the long run, but this was a simple compliance measure.”


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