Saturday, December 29, 2007

Special "Oops they forgot the Brown Act" issue of my housing co-op newsletter

We know that local government agency meetings in California are subject to the Brown Act. But are non-profit corporations such as Savo Island, the housing project where I live, subject to the Brown Act as well? Oh yeah.

"All meetings of the legislative body of a local agency shall be open and public," says our Attorney General, "and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting of the legislative body of a local agency...." And here comes the part that applies to Savo: "The term 'legislative body' is defined in section 54952 to include the board of private corporations in specified circumstances.... We conclude that the open meeting requirements of the Brown Act apply to the meetings of the governing board of a private, nonprofit corporation...."

Well. That's pretty clear.

The other day I walked by the Savo Island community room on my way to the mailbox and saw what looked like a Board meeting going on. There was our Board president, our Board treasurer, another member of our Board's in-group alliance and some other people sitting around a table usually used at Board meetings. It looked like a Board meeting to me.

"No, Jane, you are wrong," someone told me. "That was just a Management Committee meeting." Oh. My bad.

But then I thought about it some more. If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck.... Nope, it couldn't be a Board meeting. No notice was given and no agenda was set. But then it couldn't be a Management Committee meeting either, for the same reason. No notice was given. No agenda was set. Plus none of us Board members who are in the "out-group" were allowed to come -- or even notified about it. Plus the official December Board meeting had already been canceled by our President.

What exactly is happening here? Could it be that the Board in-group alliance doesn't like having actual Board meetings any more? Wherein everything is done out in public like our bylaws suggest and the Brown Act requires? And where the meetings are taped and we have actual minutes? And I can take notes and report back to my constituency about all the special-interest maneuvering that goes on there?

"Nah, Jane, you're just being paranoid."

In any case, I do want to report that our co-op's re-hab project is finally starting to move right along now after approximately six years of stalling. And why shouldn't it? Two of the Board members who appeared to be blocking it the most -- because the cost of it would raise their market-rate rents -- informed us at the November Board meeting that they or their family members have recently taken major cuts in their incomes. Oh. That must mean that they are now on Section 8 like the rest of us poor slobs and no longer need to stop the re-hab to protect their own interests rent-wise.

"Jane, you are just being paranoid." Am I?

Let's move on. We just got our annual audit report back. Interesting reading. We're in debt up to our necks because the rents here haven't been raised for the last umpteen years because the Board in-group voted against it time after time, apparently in order to avoid having to pay market-rate rents in line with the rest of Berkeley, thus getting their own brand of HUD subsidies even as they looked down their noses at the rest of us poor slobs.

"C'mon, Jane, you're just being...." Oh shut up.