A local environmental group late Tuesday accused city and county representatives of violating the Brown Act in developing "guiding principles" that would limit regional power of the Fort Ord Reuse Authority.
Lawyers for Keep Fort Ord Wild asked the FORA board to seek a criminal investigation by the Monterey County District Attorney's Office.
In a letter to the board, attorney Molly Erickson said emails show the voting members of the FORA advisory committee — all staff representatives of the five land-holding jurisdictions on the FORA board — met secretly to devise the guidelines.
The five jurisdictions represented at the Nov. 13 meeting were Monterey County and the cities of Marina, Seaside, Del Rey Oaks and Monterey, jurisdictions that represent nine of 13 votes on the FORA board.
Seaside Deputy City Manager Diana Ingersoll confirmed the meeting and her attendance. While the attendees were the voting members of the FORA advisory committee, she said, it was an informal meeting of staff members to discuss the jurisdictions' responses to the Fort Ord Base Reuse Plan Reassessment.
The guiding principles "evolved" spontaneously during the meeting, Ingersoll said.
The guidelines have sparked a firestorm at FORA, particularly for an item that would limit land-use votes on the FORA board to land-holding jurisdictions. The proposal would exclude Carmel, Pacific Grove, Sand City and Salinas, which now have land-use votes.
Several critics, including State Sen.
The guidelines also call on FORA to fund or implement all proposed capital improvements, whether or not they are now needed, before the agency dissolves in 2020; maintain the base reuse plan to avoid a new environmental impact report; make no changes to prior land-use and water allocation approvals; and monitor but not re-evaluate the health of the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin.
Pacific Grove's representative to the board, Mayor Bill Kampe, raised concerns about possible open-meeting violations on Dec. 14, when the guidelines were first presented to the board.
"How is it that nine votes out of 13 have come together to discuss and propose this particular item and the rest of the board didn't know about it," he said. "I was kind of wondering, where's the Brown Act in this process?"
Erickson said emails obtained under the Public Records Act show at least one meeting occurred and that the illegal serial communications continued over a period of time.
The emails detail an effort to coordinate the guiding principles for presentation to the city councils and board of supervisors before submission to FORA. In one email, Carl Holm, deputy director of the Monterey County Resource Management Agency, said the purpose was to "create a document that represents a collective voice of multiple agencies taking separate actions."
The FORA board is scheduled to further discuss the proposed guidelines at its meeting Friday. Noting that the board discussed the document Dec. 14 without knowing of the "serious violations" of the Brown Act, Erickson called on the directors to "immediately place a stop to any review or consideration of guiding principles documents."
Virginia Hennessey can be reached at 753-6751 or firstname.lastname@example.org