Following the state’s open meeting laws seems to be a constant challenge for the board members of the OC Fair and Event Center.
Last week — moments before initiating a discussion about how the fair board can better comply with open meeting laws — board members essentially told the public they had decided in private email discussions to use Fair Board funds to pay for a home security system for CEO Steve Beazley.
Beazley’s home has been vandalized several times since the sale of the OC Fairgrounds was announced in July, 2009, according to a staff report.
Then with no discussion about the rationale or details of the request, they voted unanimously to authorize the purchase of the security system.
Board director Dale Dykema told the meeting crowd that news media reports had indicated that Beazley had requested a home security system. He corrected that by saying the idea was brought up by director Gary Hayakawa. Other board members chimed in through email that it was a good thing to do, Dykema said.
Hayakawa told the public about email discussions board members had about Beazley’s home being egged and otherwise vandalized.
“When it comes down to the family, the kids…the kids can’t sleep. They’re having nightmares. And that’s not good,” Hayakawa said. “That’s why I suggested we go ahead and put a surveillance system in.”
While the security system for Beazley may be warranted, the point of the state’s public records act is that officials don’t just take votes in public but actually debate spending and other decisions in front of the public.
And it doesn’t look like that happened here.
Roger Grable is the fair board’s new attorney — replacing the deputy attorney general who quit in December. That lawyer left citing concerns over the fair board’s private discussions that created a non-profit to buy the fairground.
Grable didn’t seem surprised when I asked about the potential violation.
Like all good lawyers, at first he said, “I think they talked about putting it on the agenda.”
Hayakawa himself seemed to indicate that he had reached the decision to grant the security system over emails, and Dykema confirmed it with his announcement.
Grable shrugged, as if to say good point and added, “I will reiterate to them that they need to not communicate with each other outside the agenda.”
Regarding whether there was a specific violation, and the cure, Grable said “I don’t know what was said. But I’ll look at it.”
— NORBERTO SANTANA, JR.
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