Wednesday, October 5, 2011

County D.A. confirms it is investigating Pacifica Planning Commission

Posted by Steve Sinai

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jim alex said...

D.A.'s Office Investigating Planning Commission
An Assistant District Attorney confirmed that the office is looking into allegations of public meetings law violations.

By Camden Swita Email the author3:34pm &nbps;1 Comment

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Add your photos & videos The San Mateo District Attorney's Office confirmed this morning that it is investigating allegations that six of seven Planning Commissioners broke public meetings law.

Assistant District Attorney Albert Serrato has contacted a Pacifica City Attorney representative for input on the case and over the next two to three weeks will look into whether, by taking an unagendized vote and discussing, in depth, the unagendized topic of Caltrans' plan to widen Highway 1 at a Sept. 29 meeting, the Planning Commission violated the Brown Act.

"I have been provided with a copy of the video [of the meeting], and I'll be looking at it to see if there was a violation," Serrato said. "I'll then recommend a rememdy, if any is needed."

The District Attorney's Office was notified of the possible infractions by Pacifica residents Mark Stechbart and Jim Wagner. They believe the violations occurred while commissioners were trying to bog down the review process of a recently released document essential to the highway widening project.

That's because of a vote the commission took at the meeting in which it unanymously decided to recommend that the public comment period for the document's review be extended by 30 calendar days.

Planning Commissioner Richard Campbell, who was not at the meeting and so does not stand accused, said he believes Stechbart and Wagner's accusation is a get-back for an old political wound.

Until this morning it was unkown whether the District Attorney's Office was indeed examinig these allegations.

Serrato said that if a Brown Act violation occurred, the goal is usually to have it "cured and corrected", meaning that any votes taken outside the law would be undone at a susequent meeting.

But, he said, if it looks like the commission displayed a "willful intent to conceal information from the public" or "intentionally acted with knowledge that it was violating the Brown Act," commissioners could face criminal charges.

"This case should be fairly easy to evaluate," Serrato said.