Supervisor C: “Gee, B, you’re right. I’m awfully glad you set me straight. Let’s go tell them!”
In other words, perhaps the supervisors did not actually discuss Dr. Thomas Garthwaite’s now-public report advising the closure of the trauma unit, and perhaps they didn’t actually vote to adopt it, before they called a news conference.
But Susan Seager, the attorney for the Timeswho wrote the Brown Act demand for the tapes, isn’t buying it.
“They took a vote,” Seager said. “You can call it anything you want to. But they clearly reached a consensus.”
Missing from the imagined dialogue, of course, is the county counsel, who would be the person advising the board that its discussion in closed session is or is not legal. It’s a conversation that would be interesting to hear. Because while the Brown Act does make an exception for anticipated litigation, it doesn’t let the board get by without revealing who it thinks is about to sue, and over what — unless revealing that information would somehow give the adversary some valuable information that would help its case against the county.
That’s clearly not the case here, because the key information — we’re going to close the trauma center — was immediately made public. Only the deliberation — the decision-making process, the very heart of open and democratic government — was kept from the public.
The board ought to know better, since the court ordered it to pay $116,000 of your money for its last major Brown Act breach. But perhaps the real fault lies with the lawyers, whose job it is to keep the supervisors on the straight and narrow, whether they want to be kept there or not.
But for the last six months there has been no county counsel, as the board dickers over whom to hire for the job. The two top people in the office, Raymond Fortner and Donovan Main, want the gig — and they are two of the people who are advising the board on the Brown Act. So you can imagine another conversation, with the supervisors asking whether they can adjourn to closed session and the lawyer answering:
“Well, do you want to be allowed to adjourn into closed session? If I get the job, then, sure, you can adjourn into closed session.”
I hope that’s not the case. But we’ll know, as soon as we get the tapes.