FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Judge Strikes Down MLPAI Lawsuit
Fort Bragg, California – July 18, 2012 – A Ukiah Superior Court judge has ruled in Gurney v. CA DFG et al – that California’s Marine Life Protection Act “North Coast Regional Stakeholders Group” was not subject to California’s Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act laws, nor the state or federal Constitution.
According to Hon. David Nelson, neither the MLPA Initiative’s staff, its commercial contractors, nor the 34-member “North Coast Regional Stakeholders Group” (NCRSG) were bound by state laws that assure the public and the press the right to record public meetings.
The required public comment period at the April 20-21, 2010 MLPAI public meetings, which “Initiative” facilitators failed to provide, was also ruled superfluous by the Ukiah judge.
Although uniformed California State Fish and Game Wardens were providing security, and a quorum of over twenty-five California Department of Fish and Game officials and MLPA “I Team” contractors were present, along with the “stakeholders” at the two-day public meetings, the judge ruled: “The Court finds that the NCRSG is not a state body subject to the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act.”
Judge Nelson went on to claim that the North Coast Regional Stakeholders Group – created by a secretive “public/private partnership” for the MLPA “Initiative” – was neither a state body nor an advisory committee, subject to the law. According to the specious language in the ruling:
“The NCRSG is not a state body “created by statute” as defined in Government Code 11121(a); It is also clear that the NCRSG is not an advisory committee “created by formal action” of [a] state body or any member of a state body; The NCRSG was not “created by formal action” of the legislature or any other state body.”
At the beginning of the two-day, April 2010 MLPAI ‘North Coast Regional Stakeholders Group’ public meetings, reporter David Gurney was ordered by privately contracted facilitators to cease recording the proceedings. He continued several times to try to acquire background footage of the facilitators dividing the NCRSG into two groups, against a previous vote. He also sought footage of the computerized “marine map decision tool” being introduced to stakeholders by MLPAI staff to help designate ocean closure zones. He was ordered several times to quit recording.
Near the end of the second day of meetings, during a question and answer period, Mr. Gurney asked why the MLPA “Initiative” was not addressing ocean industrialization issues besides fishing, as mandated in the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act. The response of the “Initiative’s” private contractors was to order the arrest of Mr. Gurney by a uniformed California Fish and Game warden.
Initially, MLPAI officials argued that the two-day NCRSG meetings were “workshops” – and so exempt from Bagley-Keene open meeting law. When these arguments failed, the Office of the Attorney General and private attorneys for the MLPA “I-Team” asserted that the entire “stakeholders” process was not subject to state law, and that the group was not an advisory committee, nor state body of any kind.
The reality of events belies the defendants’ and judge’s contention that the the North Coast Regional Stakeholders Group was not a formal state body or advisory committee. The NCRSG ultimately went on to create the “unified proposal” that was approved by the MLPAI’s so-called “Blue Ribbon Task Force,” and then sent on to the California Fish and Game Commission for adoption. This “unified proposal,” created by the “non-advisory” NCRSG committee, is the basis for new public fishing/gathering closures on the North Coast. The NCRSG recommendations will be written into state law within the next year.
Mr. Gurney, along with Attorney Peter Martin of Eureka, California filed a lawsuit two years ago against the privately funded MLPA “Initiative,” and the state of California, for among other things, violations of California’s Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act laws, and state and federal guarantees for freedom of the press and freedom of speech.
Final resolution of the case is pending.
For further information, and reactions to this ruling in the coming few weeks, go to David Gurney’s NOYO NEWS blog, http://noyonews.net.
David Gurney, Jugglestone Productions, P.O. Box 2150, Fort Bragg, CA 95437 Tel: 707-961-1339
Peter Martin, Law Offices, 917 Third Street, Eureka, CA 95501 Tel: 707-268-0445
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