Appointment of Alameda County supervisor challenged in lawsuit

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The Alameda County Taxpayers Association is trying to build a legal case to remove Dave Brown from the board of supervisors, claiming he was hastily appointed to the seat in violation of an open meeting law. State.

On November 16, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 to appoint Brown to replace Wilma Chan, who was killed two weeks earlier when she was hit by a car while walking her dog in Alameda.

Brown, who had been Chan’s chief of staff since 2016 and worked in his office for years before as a political adviser, was appointed for the remainder of his former boss’ term this year. A member of Chan’s family and others urged the board to appoint Brown, who promised to preserve the late supervisor’s legacy.

The nomination was somewhat controversial as supervisors did not consider anyone else and Brown was not a resident of Chan District until just days before supervisors pressed him for the seat.

Brown said he would not run for Chan’s seat in the June primary, although he would not have been eligible anyway because Alameda County requires candidates to live in districts that they wish to represent for at least one year.

Supervisor Nate Miley dissented at the time, saying he wanted to wait another week to allow more public comment. Although he voted to nominate Brown, board chairman Keith Carson acknowledged hearing from some people that they were concerned that the “public process” for nominating a replacement was thorough.

This concern about the lack of public process is at the heart of the ratepayer group’s lawsuit, which was filed in court in January but has not been served on the county, according to Jason Bezis, an attorney who filed it. on behalf of County resident Marcus Crawley.

The lawsuit accuses the board of supervisors of violating the state’s open meeting law, known as the Brown Act. According to the lawsuit, while the agenda for the Nov. 16 meeting included an item calling for the creation of a process to fill Chan’s District 3 seat, supervisors ignored that process and instead voted to appoint Brown that day without publicly reviewing a pool of potential candidates. applicants or candidates.

“Anyone reading the agenda for the regular meeting (November 16) would have had no idea that the Board would not be accepting applications to fill the vacancy and would not be conducting any public interviews with candidates,” indicates the trial. “Anyone reading the agenda would have had no idea that the board would nominate David K. Brown of Walnut Creek, a legally unqualified nominee.”

None of the supervisors, nor County Legal Counsel Donna Ziegler, responded to requests for comment.

In an email response to a request for comment, Brown said that as Chan’s chief of staff, “I have worked diligently to implement his programs and initiatives. This is also why I I have worked to honor his wishes to complete his term on the board and to ensure the continuation of his initiatives.As a longtime staff member and friend of Supervisor, my appointment is what Supervisor Chan wanted, what his family wanted and ultimately what the supervisory board decided.

According to text messages included in the lawsuit as exhibits, Brown urged certain supervisors to vote for his nomination on November 16.

“I need you to make the motion no matter what today,” he texted supervisor Richard Valle the morning before the supervisors meeting, according to screenshots included in the filing. of pursuit. “Waiting a week could reduce our chances. We are very close. Wilma would have run into this kind of situation.

“Wear a tie,” Valle replied.

During the meeting, Brown texted supervisor David Haubert to “take the vote and schedule it if it fails.”

“Yes,” Haubert replied via text, before explaining that it didn’t appear the board had the votes.

In the end, the votes were in and the board approved Brown’s nomination.

In addition to the transparency issue, Bezis said in an email that the taxpayer group also hopes to file another lawsuit to remove Brown on the grounds that he is unqualified for the seat due to his previous residency. . Brown was a registered Contra Costa County voter until just days before his nomination, which Brown and the other supervisors acknowledged and publicly discussed at the meeting.

However, to legally challenge whether someone is eligible to hold public office, a “quo-warranto” lawsuit must first be approved by the state attorney general’s office. Bezis said that because Attorney General Rob Bonta had supported Brown’s nomination, he feared he would get fair treatment if he sued and wanted Bonta to recuse himself. Bonta, his wife, Assemblyman Mia Bonta, and other elected officials had signed a letter urging the council to nominate Brown.

Representatives from Bonta’s press office declined to comment on details of Brown’s situation on Thursday. But in the letter to the board of supervisors he signed with his wife and others, Bonta says Brown qualifies for the seat and asks that he be considered along with other candidates.

“In the wake of this tragic loss, we urge you to have confidence in his stated succession plan, which is why we strongly recommend Dave Brown, his longtime chief of staff, to serve the remainder of Supervisor Chan’s term. “, says the letter. “It is what she knew was best for District 3 should this unfortunate eventuality occur, and our understanding after legal review is that this is permissible for this caretaking ability and that Mr. Brown is also not eligible to appear at the opening. seat next year. We know you will give all applicants the consideration they deserve through a fair and transparent process.

So far, three people have entered the race for the June primary – Oakland council member Rebecca Kaplan, former Alameda council member Lena Tam and David Kakishiba, a former council director from Alameda. administration of the Oakland Unified School District which is the executive director of the East Bay Asian Youth Center.

This isn’t the first time Brown has faced scrutiny over his living situation as an elected official. He divided his time between a Walnut Creek condo he owned with his wife while maintaining an El Sobrante address at his parents’ home when he served on the West Contra Costa Unified School District board. The district launched an investigation in 2007 but found he met the residency requirements for the position.

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