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D.A. Says Investigating Possible Brown Act Violations Is Complex

By Jacqueline Tualla, Reporter, JacquelineTualla@kionrightnow.com
Published On: Feb 11 2014 08:20:29 PM CST
SALINAS, Calif. -

Monterey County Board of Supervisors are under the microscope for what may have been said behind closed doors. The district attorney is now investigating possible Brown Act violations after public outcry.

A Brown Act violation could mean that supervisors were discussing things in closed sessions meetings that the public should have been able to hear.

Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo said his office has been busy investigating possible violations by county supervisors for several weeks. His office received several complaints from the community.

"So the real issue is what went on? And that's what we're looking at, and we've been doing quite a bit of research. We're in the process of interviewing many people," Flippo said.

But is it even possible to track down what was said in more than 55 closed session meetings? Flippo said it's a complex process.

"Are there transcriptions? Are their notes? Are their minutes? All of that goes into the attempt to try to find out what's occurring," he said.

And the challenge is actually getting a hold of that information needed to do a thorough investigation. As public officials, supervisors have an expectation of confidentiality.

"If they believe it is a crime to reveal what was going on, how do you get the information? It becomes very, very complex. There's a lot of law on it, and you have to work through that and that's exactly what we're doing now," he said.

County supervisor Fernando Armenta has been interviewed by the D.A.'s Office and said the closed sessions in question surround performance evaluations.

"No decisions have been made and I swore on a stack of 1,000 Bibles and I'm not religious either, just speaking for myself. Thirteen years. That's never occurred," he said.

But if there are violations found, it's hard to tell what the consequences would be.
"It is premature right now to speculate as to what would be the ultimate result of our investigation," Flippo said.

Flippo's office should be wrapping up the case in the next couple of weeks after it's done doing all the research and interviews. Because there has been so much interest from people in the community, he said he will likely hold a news conference.

There has only been one criminal case ever filed in the state related to the Brown Act, Flippo said. Turns out, it was in Monterey County and he handled it.