In order to clear the controversy on whether Lan Nguyen, a Garden Grove Unified School Board Trustee and the right hand man of State Assemblyman Van Tran, a letter asking for clarification was submitted by TheLiberalOC publisher Chris Prevatt. The letter is as follows:
Dr. Nguyen-Lam disclosed that she had witnessed conversations between three other Trustees, Lan Quoc Nguyen, Bob Harden and George West in which, prompted by Trustee Lan Quoc Nguyen, they discussed and decided their planned actions including their individual votes on matters of the nominations and election of Board officers scheduled for decision at that meeting.
Such discussions when a quorum of Trustees are present are specifically prohibited under GC § 54953. In this case, in addition to the three Trustees involved in the conversation, because the discussions were witnessed by Trustee Nguyen-Lam a total of four out of five Trustees were present when a matter was discussed and decided out of public view. Trustees Nguyen, West and Harden acknowledge at the January 5th meeting that conversations regarding the agenda item did occur, yet some stated that they did not recall the details of those discussions.
In light of these facts and under the provisions of GC § 54960.1, I request on behalf of the internet publication TheLiberalOC.com that the Board of Trustees take action to remedy this apparent violation of the Brown Act. I request that in the interest of public disclosure of prior Board actions that:
1. Trustees Lan Quoc Nguyen, Bob Harden and George West disclose publicly that they were all present for, and did indeed have, conversations just prior to the December 15th Board meeting in the Board Hearing Room at which time they did discuss the nominations for and election of Board officers.
2. The Board of Trustees acknowledges publicly that such conversations appear to be potential violations of the spirit, if not the letter of, the Brown Act California’s open meetings statutes.
3. The Board of Trustees affirm their commitment individually and publicly to refrain from such discussions in the future.
Please be aware that the Brown Act authorizes a court to enter a declaratory judgment against a legislative body for violating the Brown Act in the past where “there is a controversy over whether a past violation of law has occurred.” California Alliance for Utility Etc. Education v. City of San Diego, 56 Cal. App. 4th 1024, 1025, 1030, 65 Cal. Rptr. 2d 833 (1997). “[T]he ripeness doctrine does not require that to obtain declaratory relief [plaintiffs must] allege and prove a pattern or practice of past violations.” Id. at 1029 (emphasis added). Rather, a declaratory relief action is proper if plaintiffs allege that a government body has violated the law, and the body or its counsel refuse to acknowledge a violation. Common Cause v. Stirling, 147 Cal. App. 3d 518, 524, 195 Cal. Rptr. 163 (1983). The legislative body’s refusal to acknowledge a past violation is generally sufficient evidence that future violations are likely to occur. Id.
The Garden Grove Unified School District Board of Trustees has 30 days to cure or correct the alleged violations of the Brown Act before court action can be sought.
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