Special to RioLindaOnline.com from Courtney Caron, former Rio Linda Elverta Community Water District Board President.
As many know during the week I work out of town. This means that it is sometimes difficult to be in person at public meetings. Rather than abandon my duties, I have set up teleconferencing, which is a legal way for an elected official to participate in a local meeting from afar. I have assumed all cost associated with teleconferencing and have not charged the district one penny.
Though the prior two teleconferencing locations, in my opinion, have been in compliance, to ensure compliance with no question (and to prevent Director Hood and Johnson from walking out again), I recently reached out to the Culver City Park and Recreation District to rent one of their ADA compliant facilities. I was interested in a conference room in their main auditorium building, to host teleconference meetings as necessary. I first attempted to use this location April 16, 2012 where both Vivien Johnson and Cathy Hood walked out of the meeting, claiming that the agenda was not posted “legally” because it was posted in the facilities glass case (which they did for us) even though their contract says they do not allow postings in their glass box, and because they did not feel the location was ADA compliant, even though it is a government agency, and the contract Vivien had in her hand during the meeting, had an entire section relating to ADA compliance.
The following day I forwarded to the district all of my records like the receipt of payment, contract for room use, reservation form, etc., that Culver City provided me at booking. The email was sent at 3:59 p.m. on April 17, 2012 with all of the documents attached in pdf form.
Thereafter I was able to attend meetings in person, and it was not until booking the room for the June 4 hearing that I was made aware of the secret investigation Vivien was engaged in, behind the board of directors’ backs.
It appears that director Johnson contacted Culver City and spoke with a person named Diego. When I was in the district last week, however, I was told that no one at the district (Culver City) had spoken to Director Johnson in person. Regardless of whether or not she actually spoke on the phone, she did attempt to send emails to the reservation department employees, staff and supervisors to elicit information, no doubt to publish another false article in her paper.
Here is the request she made:
“Diego Cevallos, Manager Culver City Veteran’s Memorial Complex First, RLECWD is Rio Linda Elverta Community Water District. This is a water district and is a public agency, NOT a non-profit organization. Due to our agency being a public agency we have various Gov. codes and district policies that have to be followed when holding any board meeting, local or remote.
1. Meeting agendas, date, time and location is required to be posted in three locations available to the public 72 hours prior to said meeting.
2. The facility is required to be accessible to the public without having to sign in or show ID and ADA compliant. Remote locations have to comply to all the same rules, codes and policies as does the locally held meeting. Due to Courtney Caron’s behavior, in not conforming to codes and policies when try to hold prior remote meetings, three lawsuits have been filed against the district. We need certain information concerning this rental, April 16th in order to protect the district from another lawsuit. I might add that you or your facility has no liability concerning this issue. The district has no record of the rental application nor any receipt for the cost of the room rental.”
I would like you to pay close attention to the end of the email where she says “We need certain information.” It appears here that Vivien is attempting to lead the Culver City staff into thinking first and foremost that the “board” is trying to get information. She uses the term we several times and signs her email with a notation of her director status. Funny thing is, the board never gave her authority nor was this ever discussed.
Oddly enough she also makes the statement that “Due to Courtney Caron’s behavior, in not conforming to codes and policies when try to hold prior remote meetings, three lawsuits have been filed against the district.” I know of two lawsuits filed by Joseph Sherrill in relationship to remote locations for meetings, but not three. What is also baffling, is that at this point in time, no judge has made a determination that any rules, laws or regulations have been broken or violated, whatsoever. Vivien knows this. She sits in both open and closed session and receives all the same emails and information as the other directors. These law suits are not being heard for months in the Sacramento Superior Court. SO that means at this point we have a member of the community, that I believe has little to no formal legal training or education, with writs full of spelling and grammatical errors, who is alleging that statutes and laws were broken in hopes that a judge will agree with him. For Vivien to knowingly make this false statement to another is by definition defamation.
She goes on to say, ” The district has no record of the rental application nor any receipt for the cost of the room rental.” The funny thing is, she never asked the district! There is no public request on file by Vivien, for the rental documents. Had she done this, or truthfully, just asked me for them, she would have been given the documents as they were emailed using my district email, April 17, 2012.
The remainder of her email continues to request proof in writing that I claimed we were a non-profit agency, thus qualifying me for a Category C rate of $11.00 an hour for the room. On the Rental Questionnaire however, one of the first questions specifically asks whether or not your agency is a non-profit 501 (c) 3. Because we are not, I checked the box indicating “no.” Moreover, Category C on the rate sheet includes all “governmental agencies” in or outside of Culver City. This clearly explains why we received (or I received I should say) the $11.00 rate! It is not rocket science!
She even misstates portions of the Brown Act in relationship to posting of agendas. Three posting locations is NOT required.
After sending her email and clearly trying to gather “proof” of foul play, Culver City responds that they will not provide her with any information because she is using a personal email and not her district email address. Please remember, Vivien refuses to use her district email. Most believe that is because any information received to her personal email she can more easily print in her newspaper. I am yet to understand why she is unable to use her official district email.
At this point I email Vivien, attach all the documents I have from Culver City, and answer all of her questions. I point out that the district has the documents and always have, that we have two not three lawsuits relating to teleconferencing and most importantly, though she already knew this, that at this point only allegations of broken laws have been made, no conclusions by reliable legal professionals such as a judge have been rendered. I get no response from VIvien.
A couple hours later I receive a call followed by an email. To no surprise, Vivien has emailed Culver City again. This time she put on her best display of professionalism. Here is what she says:
“Thank you very much for all the help you have given Cathy and I in our investigation. As per our conversation you did state that the room had been in fact rented as a 501(c)3 and was only charged the rate, $11.00 per hour for a non-profit organization located within the Culver City limits. You also stated that nothing could be posted other than a one line designation opposite the room name, within your glass case of directory listings. I do not understand why you did not keep this investigation confidential as I asked you to. As I am involved with the McClellan VA facility and the Mather VA facility, both located within Sacramento County, I will be checking with your ranking officer or supervisor. All over California local, state and federal agencies are having problems with those that abuse their power costing taxpayers thousands of dollars each and every year. For you to join the ranks of those abusing their power needs to be looked into. You will be hearing from me or someone above you, concerning this issue…………..”
Now, this was disturbing on many levels. First and foremost, I have at this point, personally answered all of her questions and emailed her all of the requested documents in my possession. She has had time now to contact the district and ask them to verify my April 17 email and request a copy of the documents from the district as well. This email, rather than use the word “We,” (I assume because in my email to her I stated the obvious, that she had no authority to represent the board in her secret mission but only could speak for herself) she used her name and Cathy Hood’s name. The best part of the email is when she chastised the agency for not keeping her request “confidential.” She should be familiar enough with the public records request procedure to know that any item sent to a public agency is NOT confidential. Even more nuts is her comment about abusing power when she, herself, was abusing her power as an elected official by representing the board in this capacity. She closes the email out with an ever so unprofessional threat to contact the superiors of the staff because she was unable to get her way.
Following this email came a whole string of emails from Culver City whereby they let Viven know that her emails would no longer he responded to by anyone other than the City Attorney. They scolded her behavior in relationship to suggesting their agency was not doing their jobs, and said that all communication would now have to go through their attorney.
At this point, Mary Henrici becomes involved after she is sent the email by Culver City. She contacts legal counsel, who spends the next several hours trying to sort out the mess that Vivien has created, spends time speaking to the City Attorney, and apologizing for the unprofessional behavior by Vivien Johnson. Apologetic emails were also sent by Mary Henrici and me.
What was so baffling about this whole crazy situation is the lack of professionalism shown by Director Johnson. Her disregard for another agency was despicable. The threats and condescending tone in her email was disgusting. Her lack of due diligence, calling our district first for documents, was absolutely ridiculous. Thankfully, due to the competence of our General Counsel, General Manager and the staff of Culver City Park and Recreation, Vivien’s evil plan to start a new rumor, further harass me, and create unnecessary drama and lies in the community was stopped. I am sure the next edition of the NCN will spin this story into some crazy fabrication, but nonetheless, just send in a simple public records request, or email to me and I will happily forward on all of the emails mentioned above.