Open Letter from Ed Castillo - Former Planning Commissioner
- Current Concerned Citizen and Follower of City Events...............
From Edward M. Castillo
Request: If anyone has Tom Holden's email address, I would appreciate it if you
can forward this message
to him on my behalf.
Violation of the Secret Meeting Law, also known as the Ralph M. Brown Act, is a direct insult to the foundation of our framework of Democracy. In other words, a direct violation to Open Government.
The Superior Court of Ventura County found the Oxnard City Council and the Community Development Commission in violation of the Open Meeting Law (Ralph M. Brown Act). This Conviction and Judgment is a Great Victory for the Constituents of Oxnard and Ventura County, who believe in honest and open government.
Judge Vincent J. O'Neill, Jr., has sent a clear message to the members of Oxnard City Council, that their disregard for this sensitive law will no longer be tolerated.
Keep in mind, this case involves council members of who voted in 2002 which included Tom Holden, a candidate in the upcoming November election. Councilmember Andres Herrera was not on council during this period and Mayor Lopez excused himself from the vote and participation due to conflict of interest as he owned property near the theater site.
To date, City Council has spent well over $400,000 to defend a case the City Council believed to be groundless. Yet the City Council hired three legal law firms to defend them for their actions. Furthermore, it should be noted, the attorney representing the Plaintiff, Richard Tentler, offered two settlements to City Council in 2003. Yet the City Council refused to settle. With complete disregard of the public taxpayer funds they were spending to defend their wrongful actions the City refused the settlement offers which basically sought the City to re-open the meetings and reconsider the theater project at a public meeting. The cost of settlement would have been zero dollars versus the million-plus they chose to spend.
On Monday, (8/30) one day before the issuance of the Judge O'Neill's verdict, Tom Holden, speaking to the Savier's Road Redesign Team told the group of Oxnard residents "the judge found fault only with how the City Council posted the agenda." A slight oversight. He further stated "Our City Council has the most open form of government."
Martin Jones corrected Holden's statements at Wednesday's (9/1) Inter-neighborhood Council Forum (INCF), by retorting the Council neglected to post SEVEN Agendas, not one, as Holden claimed.
Truly, the judge found the City Council misled the public and improperly sold the Bank of America Building, wrongfully contracted the Parking Structure to Dave White's son, and other inappropriate action on the part of City Council.
What I find to be ironic in this case is the following:
Whether you believe in the Gang Injunction or not, the City Council has placed an injunction against a group of people in Oxnard. But I don't believe the People of Oxnard fully understand or aware Superior Court Judge O'Neill has placed an INJUNCTION AGAINST THE OXNARD CITY COUNCIL for breaking the law on Secret Meetings.
Per the order of the Superior Court of Ventura County, the Injunction against Oxnard City Council reads as follows (direct text from the judge's order)
The City Council of the City of Oxnard and the Oxnard Community Development Commission are hereby enjoined from further violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act, Government Code section 54950 et.seq. Specifically, the Council and Commission are ordered as follows concerning future closed session deliberations on pending real estate transactions pursuant to section 54956.8:
1. Such closed sessions shall not include discussions of transactions or potential transactions pertaining to real property not specifically identified in a the agenda for that closed session.
2. Such closed sessions shall not include discussions pertaining to proposed commitments by the city concerning city property other than the property identified in the closed session agenda as the property subject to the negotiations.
3. As to the real property being negotiated in such closed sessions, discussions shall be limited to price, price-related monetary terms and conditions as to the financing or use of that specific property which are being imposed or proposed by either the city or another negotiating party.
4. The disclosure of items to be discussed in such closed sessions, pursuant to sections 54954.5(b) and 54957.7, shall identify all parties with whom city representatives will be negotiating.
Date: August 23, 2004
/s/ Vincent J. O'Neill, Jr.
Judge of the Superior Court
In the Star's Sept. 1st. article, the City Council stated it has not decided if they will go forward with an appeal. Needless to say, by the time the City Council has to pay the Plaintiff's legal fees for this case and go to an appeal process, City Council will be spending well over $1.5 million dollars to defend it's wrong doing.
As I have stated three times before city council, I have asked our elected officials not to direct the city manager nor the city attorney to go forward with the appeal. Deal with the mistake and move on.
Next City Council Meeting is scheduled for September 14, 2004 @ 7:00 PM, City Hall. I encourage all of you and others to attend and demand City Council to obey the court order of the Injunction and not to appeal this case.
More importantly, I encourage all of you to directly contact your City Councilmembers and tell them not to move forward with an appeal. The money already lost could have been used to extend library hours for the children of Oxnard, after school programs, or even give the residence of the North East Community Specific Plan the Sport Park that was promised to them when they moved into their neighborhoods 11 years ago (Corner of Gonzales Road and Oxnard Blvd.).
Councilmember John Zaragoza = 805-485-1825
Councilmember Andres Herrera = 805-797-6159
Councilmember Dean Maulhardt = 805-339-4150
Councilmember Bedford Pinkhard = 805-485-9566
Former Councilmember Tom Holden = 805-377-3318
Oxnard City Manager Edmund Sotelo = 805-385-7430
With that note, I thank you for your time, patients, and attention.
Edward M. Castillo