Mayor Daniel Romero, Mayor Pro Tem Maritza Hurtado and Councilman Bill Hodge attended the Calexico Unified Solvency Committee meeting Thursday.
The Imperial Valley Press erroneously reported in Friday’s edition that the city attorney said if the three didn’t sit together and discuss city business, it would be permissible for Hodge to be present.
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However, it was actually Hodge who said that the city attorney said that.
Calexico City Attorney Jennifer Lyon declined to comment Friday on whether Hodge sought her counsel on the subject.
“I was concerned about the Brown Act also. I acted on the green light from our city attorney,” Hodge said.
He explained that he was there in the role of a teacher and said when he also asked Calexico Unified Superintendent Richard Fragale if it was OK to be there, he was told he could.
“From this point on, if it’s an issue and I wasn’t officially invited, I will find a way to contribute in other ways,” he said. “I was not directed by (Associated Calexico Teachers) and was not there on behalf of the city. I was there as an individual teacher. If there is any constituency that needs to be at the meetings, it’s got to be teachers.”
Hodge also said he thought it was a public meeting, “because that’s what other people told me.”
CNPA General Counsel Jim Ewert said since the meeting wasn’t open to the public or publicized, the attendance of three council members would violate the Brown Act.
If a Brown Act violation occurs, either the district attorney or a community member can send a letter to the district alleging the violation, and the district has options to either agree and acknowledge not to do it again, disagree or ignore it, Ewert said.
If it’s ignored, after 30 days of sending the letter, a person could file a lawsuit.
Fragale said he believed that Hodge was there as a teacher and could report back to the Associated Calexico Teacher union.
Calexico Unified board President Ruth Duarte said Thursday that there were two teachers with ACT at the meeting.
However, ACT President Enrique Cervantes said he has not appointed two people to represent ACT at the meetings.
“The fact that there are teachers present there is that in some school sites the presidents of their school site councils just happen to be teachers,” Cervantes wrote in an email. “We are not participating because it does not matter what we say or contribute in this committee. There is already an established plan that the district is going to implement regardless of what the entire community says.”
He took issue that the meetings are not open to the public although “these members are supposed to represent the community at large,” he wrote.
He referred to the meetings as “ridiculous orchestrated schemes” and that the “only purpose that this committee is going to serve at the end is for the district to be able to claim that the community was involved in the decision-making that led to the district doing what they supposedly had to do to be solvent.”
Fragale said the idea of the committee was to have community representatives that would then disseminate the information to the public.
He said the administrative staff present at the committee meetings are there so they can respond to specific questions effectively and “so we don’t have to say, ‘we’ll get back to you.’”
Further complicating the meeting attendance is Calexico Unified board member Joong Kim’s disagreement with who can attend the meeting.
Kim attempted to come to both meetings that the committee has held but was asked to leave each time.
Duarte appointed board member Norma Aguilar and herself as the two board member representatives for the committee.
Calexico Unified Attorney Yuri Calderon said that the board president has the authority to appoint board members to committees, and that as long as the meeting is not open to the public or advertised, it’s not appropriate to have three board members in attendance.
Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.