[env-trinity] TMC changes bylaws to allow for closed sessions

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Fri Sep 27 10:24:31 PDT 2019

In my opinion, this is not a good thing for public involvement, which is already minimal. Kudos to Trinity County Supervisor Keith Groves for voting no on this bad idea.
TS http://www.trinityjournal.com/news/local/article_23aa0a46-df2b-11e9-a4c2-77541d4d02e4.html

TMC changes bylaws to allow for closed sessions
   - By AMY GITTELSOHN The Trinity Journal
   - Sep 25, 2019
   -  0

Members of the Trinity Management Council which guides the Trinity River Restoration Program voted at their last meeting to change TMC bylaws so that all their meetings don’t have to be open to the public.

Closed “executive sessions” of the TMC can now be held if the subject matter is related to contracts, personnel, legal matters, “or other sensitive matters as determined by the chair.” Meeting minutes are not to be taken for these executive sessions.

Other than TMC members, individuals may attend these closed meetings only at the invitation of the TMC chair.

The bylaws change was made during the council’s regular quarterly meeting held Sept. 11 and 12 at the Yurok Tribe Weitchpec Office.

Trinity County Sup. Keith Groves, who represents Trinity County on the TMC, said he was the only one of the eight members to vote against the closed sessions.

“I don’t see a need for it,” Groves said, “but seven other people did.”

Those seven others are the TMC members representing the National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, federal Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service, Hoopa Valley Tribe, Yurok Tribe, and state Department of Water Resources.

>From the restoration program, Executive Director Mike Dixon (who is not on the council) said there are times the TMC has wanted to discuss things and not have it be on the public record.

For example, Dixon said, details about what TMC members want from a contract shouldn’t become public until that contract is advertised. There are also times when the TMC members want to give him direction regarding specific program staff members without it being public if they see a problem, Dixon said.

Dixon said TMC Chair Justin Ly, who represents the fisheries service, in particular wanted the change.

The solicitor’s office was consulted and responded that the only reason the TMC couldn’t have closed sessions was its bylaws which previously stated, “All regularly scheduled and special meetings of the TMC shall be open to the public.”

Regarding upcoming meetings on implementation of refinements to the program in response to recommendations by a consultant, Dixon said the only issues he thinks would be subject to executive session are personnel and contracting discussions, such as hiring of a consultant to guide the process.

TMC meetings held in Trinity County have been known to get fiery as members of the public criticize the program.

Sup. Groves said he doesn’t believe the purpose of the closed sessions is to avoid that heat.

Rather, his take is that the members want to be more open in what they say. The other TMC members are employees of agencies rather than elected officials, and Groves said he thinks that makes them more reticent to voice certain opinions in a public forum.

Groves doesn’t think that’s a good reason and feels the bylaws change could further undermine confidence in the program.

Because the TMC doesn’t fall under the Brown Act “we really have no guidelines,” Groves said, “and I believe that being as open as possible on what’s going on on the river is more important than people being afraid to talk in public.”

“Nothing I see in TMC is so sensitive it should be held in a closed session,” Groves said, noting that the staff is employed by other agencies such as the Bureau of Reclamation, and most of the contracting work is done at the staff level.

“We do approve the money for it to happen,” he said. “That would be something that should not ever be in the executive session.”

Dixon said given the TMC discussion he does not expect the ability to have closed sessions to be abused.
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