By Emerson Drake
When Mayor Marsh and Supervisor Withrow got together and decided to create the Salida Annexation Ad Hoc Committee I immediately became concerned. Ad hoc committees by definition aren’t legally bound by Brown Act rules. This means they can meet without a publicized agenda and they can meet out of the public’s eye (no pun intended) . In Modesto our recent ad hoc committee of concern was tha Blue Ribbon Commission on the Homeless. After going in front of the City Council we were assured, by Mayor Ridenour, the committee would act as if under Brown Act guidelines despite the secrecy requested by some of the appointed members.
I appeared in front of both the Board of Supervisors (BoS) and the Modesto City Council and expressed concern and believed everything would be above-board and fully disclosed with public involvement. The BoS followed through with openness. Leading the way were Supervisor Terry Withrow and CEO Monica Nino. I believed at the time Modesto’s Mayor Garrad Marsh was operating along the same lines.
I was completely mistaken.
Before the City started the Christmas Holiday furlough I called the Mayor’s office and asked to be notified of the next Salida ad hoc meeting date (they had already met once without notifying the public). According to City manager Greg Nyhoff, the City and County received the “draft” Goodwin report on Wednesday 1/2/13. On Thursday 1/3/13, I received a call from Kathy Espinoza from the Mayor’s office saying the ad hoc committee would be meeting on January 10th. Ms. Espinoza made it very clear the Mayor was not going to allow the public to attend saying she had been in touch with the City Attorney’s office and they explained to her the ad hoc committee wasn’t required by law to adhere to the Brown Act and she conveyed to me the Mayor had no intention in following the Brown Act.
Prior to Ms. Espinoza calling I had received a call from Kacey Smith in Supervisors Withrow’s office extending an invitation to me from Supervisor Withrow to the upcoming meeting and informing me of the time and place. I relayed this to Ms. Espinoza to her chagrin. She explained how Modesto had several ad hoc committees which didn’t allow the public to attend. I asked her the names of current ones and her memory failed her, but she stood her ground saying there were some.
On Friday morning at 11:35 I received an email from Ms. Smith from the Supervisor’s office saying the meeting had been postponed until Jan.28th at 3:00PM on the sixth floor of the City/County building. This is just one day before the scheduled Salida MAC meeting on Jan.29th at 7:00PM at the Salida library where Mayor Marsh and Supervisor Withrow are on the agenda to speak to those assembled regarding the potential annexation.
Since the Mayor had already received the Goodwin “draft” report when he had Ms. Espinoza call me regarding the ad hoc meeting you have to wonder why the meeting was postponed. The only thing that changed was Mayor Marsh learning the public had been invited to attend the meeting. Why does he feel the need for secrecy? Why, after saying his administration would insist on transparency, is he invoking his own personal “cone of silence” over the proceedings? What doesn’t he want the general public to know or ask?
Open and Transparent or Political Favoritism
Why is the Mayor running from a comparison between his standing in front of LAFCO and basically giving away City services at our expense by saying new businesses moving into the Beard Industrial Tract won’t have to sign a waiver allowing them to be annexed into the city while INSISTING on a knock down drag out fight to bring Salida into Modesto?
Why is it good for business NOT to have to be annexed by Modesto in the Beard Tract while it’s good for business in Salida to be annexed?
We’ll be expressing our concern to both the County Board and the City Council next week at their PUBLIC meetings. Hopefully the other members of Modesto’s City Council will persuade the Mayor to conduct business in the full view of the public and not behind closed doors. A public records request has been sent to discover how many more if any committees are ad hoc and conducting City business out of the public’s view.
If you want to hear the Mayor’s comments from his last town hall meeting regarding the annexation they’ll be on Monday night at 6:00PM 1/7 on Comcast 15 or the Assyrian channel on any cable network in the valley or you can listen to the streaming video here http://www.betnahrain.org/KBSV/kbsv.htm
As an aside, did I mention the Mayor’s office didn’t call me to say the meeting was rescheduled? I wonder why?
Apologies to Ms. Espinoza for the now corrected, unintentional, misspelling of her name.