North Coast MLPA closures went into effect last month, to the fanfare of agency hacks and corporate green-washed NGO’s, without mention of the gross violations inherent in a public process bought-out by private interests.
As we start the new year, we are re-posting a few of last year’s articles, on the flagrant violation of open meeting laws committed by the corrupt, privatized Marine Life Protection Act “Initiative.”
Bagley-Keene – It’s The Law
By David Gurney
In the MLPAI’s cynical attempts to avoid responsibility for breaking the law when they banned recording and public comment at their public meetings, they have come up with a creative variety of dodges and excuses.
First came the Executive Director’s repeated mantra of denial, when he told an outraged press that the MLPAI was an “advisory committee” not subject to the Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act. Mr. Ken Wiseman repeated this claim to anyone who would listen – after first threatening, then ordering the unlawful arrest.
But when it became obvious over time that this argument did not hold water, Wiseman changed his story a year later, claiming that his illegal acts of barring the press and the public the right to record were to shield the “Initiative” from adverse publicity.
Wiseman also made unsubstantiated claims of threats and harassment in previous iterations of the MLPAI, in other parts of the state. But reality tells a very different story. Although contentious, there was never any violence, nor threat of violence, against anyone taking part in the controversial “public-private partnership.” Wiseman’s ban and on recording was an autocratic and illegal attempt to manage the news.
Later, during depositions in our lawsuit against the MLPA “Initiative,” Kearns and West facilitator Eric Poncelet stumbled over his own words trying to claim that MLPA meetings were “workshops,” not public meetings. Poncelet had also aggressively prohibited recording, public comment, or questions at these public meetings. After the illegal arrest of this reporter, Poncelet engaged in a flurry of internal spin-contol e-mails, as he tried to contend that the privatized MLPA “Initiative” might be exempt from California state laws that protect a free press and public comment at official public policy meetings in the State of California.
The Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act is crystal clear: agencies and committees, advisory or actual, public or “public/private,” that are conducting government business on behalf of the state, cannot work in darkness, shielding themselves from the daylight of open meeting law – by falsely calling their meetings “workshops.” Democracy just doesn’t work that way. It’s a cheap ploy that’s been foisted before. Poncelet was in clear and willful violation of the law. Rather than admitting his mistake and apologizing, Mr. Poncelet instead ran for cover to his Kearns and West employer’s corporate attorneys.
And, the MLPAI’s petulant Program Manager, Melissa Miller-Henson, sought to completely absolve the so-called “Initiative” from any legal accountability whatsoever by claiming the sophisticated privatized group was not a group at all, was not a legal entity, but instead was just a “project or idea.” Although laughable, corrupt lawyers with the Attorney General’s office took up this ridiculous argument, thus absolving the nefarious endeavor from any legally required oversight, responsibility, or accountablity.
To top it off, the crooked Fish and Game warden Eric Bloom – who acted as an unnecessary and intimidating armed guard during peaceful MLPAI public meetings – claimed at the time he was “under orders” to make the false arrest. Mr. Bloom later perjured himself under oath during depositions, not only denying he had made this statement, but also falsely claiming this reporter “resisted” his unlawful arrest.
When the story of perpetrators doesn’t ring true, is too preposterous to possibly be true, and if something just doesn’t seem right, it’s usually because something just isn’t right, and the perpetrators are lying.
In this case, the reality of the truth tells a very different story from what’s claimed by the corrupt defendants in our Bagley-Keene lawsuit, one that’s as plain and simple as the truth: the MLPAI “Initiative” was entirely covered under California law, and the Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act. These defendants were, and are, in serious violation.
The following excerpts regarding Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Laws are from the Citizens Media Law Project:
What Government Bodies Are Covered?
…The term “state body” also applies to committees, boards, and commissions who exercise authority delegated to it by a “state body” (as defined above), and to advisory committees or groups if they are created by formal action of a state body and have more than three members. The term may also apply to a board, commission, or agency that appears to be private or non-governmental in nature, if it receives funds provided by a “state body” and includes a member of a state body serving in his or her official capacity.
What is a Meeting?
…Ordinarily, a meeting involves some sort of action taken by the public body (resolutions passed, decisions made, etc.), but the term “meeting” applies to deliberations and information-gathering or fact-finding sessions as well. These definitions of meeting are broad and include any gathering of a majority of members in order todiscuss and carry out the body’s public business.
…If you attend a public meeting (i.e., a meeting of a governmental body required to be open to the public by law) in California, you may make an audio or video recording unless the state or local body holding the meeting determines that the recording disrupts the proceedings by noise, illumination, or obstruction of view.
For more, go to: Citizens Media Law Project’s “Open Meeting Laws in California”
When will the defendants in this lawsuit come clean, and admit they made a mistake?
Maybe never. Only time will tell.
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