Inyo County sues citizens

inyocourthouseSome Inyo County citizens have grown so disturbed by the Inyo Supervisors’ habit of secrecy over major issues that they have gone to a ballot initiative to force issues out in the open. Now, the County has sued those citizens.

Last Thursday, Inyo County filed a lawsuit against the individuals at work to force $5 million county projects to a vote of the people.  Inyo County Counsel Randy Keller said he believes the measure violates both U.S. and California  Constitutions.  He has refused to write a ballot title and summary and wants the superior court to determine the constitutionality issue first.

The County lawsuit asks for a judgment on the constitutionality of the measure and relief for the County Counsel’s duty to prepare a title and summary for the proposed initiative.  This lawsuit names Jenifer Castaneda, Mary Roper, James Bilyeu, Judy Fowler and Kenneth Lloyd, all of whom signed  the notice of intent to circulate a petition to place their measure on the ballot.  A hearing is now set for Friday, August 19th.

In a statement released after the County filed its suit, Mary Roper describes citizen frustrations over the lack of public input into the decision about the location of the new state court building. On top of that, Roper and others began to notice all of the closed sessions over plans for a mega county office center in Bishop with what they say has been no public discussion.

Roper says that the law allows closed sessions on real property negotiations over price and terms of payment, but Roper and others strongly feel that the public was entitled to details of this large project before the Supervisors forged ahead with secret deals.

Roper’s statement says, “A group of us decided that we would go forward with this Citizens Initiative in order to ensure that the consolidated office building plans and costs were fully and completely discussed before the taxpayers are committed to more debt in these uncertain economic times.”

The statement calls for a complete and public analysis of this project.  Roper goes on to say that she believes County Counsel Keller’s failure to write a ballot title and summary by the August 9th deadline is “in violation of a Supreme Court decision and is delaying the Initiative process.”

County Counsel Keller’s lawsuit points to state laws that govern public works projects and the bidding and contract procedure.  To inject a vote of the people, he believes, would violate the law.  Keller has similar concerns regarding bond issues and leases.

Roper concludes by saying that “Regardless of the outcome of Friday’s hearing, the concerns and frustrations of the citizens of Inyo County regarding what is being discussed in closed session by our public servants must be acknowledged.  The excesses of government spending,” she write, “have contributed to these economic hard times.  None of us will know if this decision to build a new consolidated county office center is supportable without knowing all the details.  So far those details,” says Roper, “have been cloaked in secrecy.”

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Daris
Daris
10 years ago

Inyoite; Item 14 on the board agenda states “Request board consider and provide direction to staff regarding the recommendation to issue a request for Proposal (RFP) in and effort to secure cost effective consolidated County office space in the Bishop Area.” This was at an open meeting and is all… Read more »

Daris
Daris
10 years ago

There was a hearing on this matter before Judge Stout in Independence 8/19 where both he and Judge Lamb disqualified themselves and scheduled another hearing in Bishop for 9/1 at 10 a.m. Dept. 4 before Judge Argento. By being present you can not persuade the judges decision it will be… Read more »

salblaster
salblaster
10 years ago

closed sessions and public meetings. it seems to me that if are elected county officials are having ” secret meetings” whats wrong with that,they were elected by majority as represenitives of the county. easily replaceable at voting time ,but the same people keep getting reelected they must be doing something… Read more »

bobbie lee swagger
bobbie lee swagger
10 years ago

listen , if they (OUR elected officials) feel they have to do something in private / behind closed doors , it’s simple = they’re hiding something . throw ’em the f out .

NTB
NTB
10 years ago

All the public officials were elected by “the people” of Inyo County. Vote them out for wasting our money and be careful who your replace them with..

JeniferCastaneda
JeniferCastaneda
10 years ago

Inyoite, I am the real estate agent/proponent you referred to. Thanks you for using the real estate analogy. I have been a licensed agent/broker for 23 years and yes property negotiations are and should be private. The point you forgot in your analogy is that in the end, after the… Read more »

Inyoite
Inyoite
10 years ago

Okay, so let’s think this through, and hear your thoughts as a real estate professional. Let’s imagine you have a client that wants to sell a property for $5.1M to the county. Do you think your client is going to want to wait to for the 3-6 months (or however… Read more »

Eamon
Eamon
10 years ago

And by your logic, the County should put up for public debate the issue of donating land in Independence to the State free of charge with no strings attached other than the State must build a new court on it. This is taking land out of the tax rolls of… Read more »

Inyoite
Inyoite
10 years ago

So, ana, I guess your answer then is, “No, I don’t know anyone who attended the open meeting, nor did I.”

ana
ana
10 years ago
Reply to  Inyoite

You are incorrect. I was one of several audience members that were there for this item #14 on January 12, 2010. #14 COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR – Request Board consider and provide direction to staff regarding the recommendation to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) in an effort to secure cost-effective consolidated… Read more »

Inyoite
Inyoite
10 years ago
Reply to  ana

Thank you for finally answering. So, if the issue is with the closed sessions, the initiative does exactly what now to fix that? All I’ve seen is about a $5 Million dollar cap, but apparently you know more about it than has been reported.

Deb
Deb
10 years ago
Reply to  Inyoite

The problem with attending the meetings is the time they are held. Who can afford to take time off from work?? And Bishop you are only 50% of the county population, what about the other half of us? And I totally agree with Clyde…..DO NOT RE-ELECT our supervisors if you… Read more »

Clyde A.
Clyde A.
10 years ago

After the debt ceiling debacle, Friend and I have desided to exersice our rights and at the next election REELECT no one! If they hold a public office and cannot represent the voters it is time to elect a new one. No more chances! We keep reelecting these supervisors and… Read more »

john
john
10 years ago

It’s disturbing that criminal types seem to be gravitating towards public servant positions. It makes me wonder whether they are public servants, or public parasites.

The Boss
The Boss
10 years ago

The peasants are getting out of control and they will be taught a lesson!

J.H.
J.H.
10 years ago

In my opinion, there should be no closed door meetings by public officials. Period! Lets have a vote on just that!

upthecreek
upthecreek
10 years ago

“For the people By the People”

LIke I said before Our government is “Out Of Control”

time that the PEOPLE take back their government

LP
LP
10 years ago
Reply to  upthecreek

Amazing how quickly some forget once in office: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed…” Declaration of Independence, 1776 If the constituents desire to put a cap on what they (the supervisors) can spend without a vote,… Read more »

ana
ana
10 years ago

You misunderstand what the lawsuit is about. This has nothing to do with the Court Building in Bishop. This is an initiative that would require a vote of the people for expenditures of over 5 million dollars by the Board of Supervisors. The purpose is to prevent encumbering the tax… Read more »

Inyoite
Inyoite
10 years ago
Reply to  ana

Curious how many people attended the board meeting that was held according to this agenda (see item 14) where an RFP for this project was discussed in an OPEN, PUBLIC meeting. http://www.inyocounty.us/Board_of_Supervisors/Agenda/2010-01-12.pdf Does the county keep records of who attended? Because it doesn’t look from the minutes of that same… Read more »

ana
ana
10 years ago
Reply to  Inyoite

Please note that every discussion since that time (well over a year) have been agendized as closed session discussions. You make my point.

Inyoite
Inyoite
10 years ago
Reply to  ana

Please note that you answered none of my questions. Did you (or anyone else you know – including Ms. Roper, a former public elected official who knows how to access the agendas and when and where the board meets) attend the meeting I referenced above? As far as discussions since… Read more »

ana
ana
10 years ago
Reply to  Inyoite

Your point about who attended the ONE meeting regarding issuing the RFP is moot. The public should not be chastised for missing ONE OPEN meeting over a year ago. Remember whose money is going to be spent…the public absolutely has every right to question why there were numerous agendized closed… Read more »

David
David
10 years ago

This lawsuit is another example of frivolous lawsuits……wasn’t enough public participation? There were meetings in both Bishop and Independence regarding the matter. How many more meetings are needed to point out the obvious, Bishop is where over 50% of the County’s population is located and the State of California has… Read more »