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Altadena Library Trustee believes she was illegally selected; Library Board fails to cure its Brown Act violation

Betsy Kahn, current President of the Altadena Library District Board of Trustees, notified the past Board President shortly after her selection as a Trustee that she believed she had been selected in violation of the Brown Act. Ms. Kahn recommended that there be a re-vote before she assumed office, but the Library Board failed to follow her advice and never re-voted.

The Altadena Library District’s legislative body is a five-member Board of Trustees. Because former Trustee Adalila Zelada-Garcia resigned in January, 2018, the Library Board was empowered to appoint a replacement Trustee. On March 7, 2018, the Library Board interviewed candidates and conducted four rounds of secret voting before ultimately selecting Ms. Kahn.

On March 20, 2018, Ms. Kahn emailed the President of the Board, John McDonald, notifying him that her research indicated her selection violated the Brown Act and recommending a re-vote. Ms. Kahn wrote: “I was reading up on the Brown Act over the weekend and now have serious concerns about whether my appointment to the Board of Trustees is valid. Open and Public V. A Guide to the Ralph M. Brown Act, published by the League of California Cities, cites California Government Code section 54953© and 54953(c)(2) in stating that “Action by secret ballot, whether preliminary or final, is flatly prohibited,” and “All actions taken by the legislative body in open session, and the vote of each member thereon, must be disclosed to the public at the time the action is taken” (p. 36). I have to say that when I told my husband after the meeting about the secret ballot process of (sic) that was used, he questioned its legitimacy, as he was the CEO of a public agency for 15 years and is very familiar with the provisions of the Brown Act.”

Ms. Kahn recommended to former Board President McDonald that remedial action be taken: “I don’t remember every detail of the proceedings at that meeting, but I thought I recalled you saying that you had cleared the process with County Counsel. You might want to check back with them again because I would expect my appointment to be challenged, as well as every carried motion I.

June 7, 2018

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