Ramona Unified school board president Bob Hailey said that a letter to the editor in which he and two other Ramona school trustees urged voters to support two candidates for the board was not a violation of California open meetings law, as a fellow board member and an open government expert have contended.

The Brown Act prohibits a majority of a legislative body from meeting privately to discuss issues or make decisions within their jurisdiction. Terry Francke, founder and attorney for the open government group Californians Aware, said the letter was “strong evidence” of a Brown Act violation because other board members said they had not discussed the issue publicly.

Hailey said no such violation occurred because he discussed the letter with one other board member, wrote the letter himself, and later mentioned it to a third board member who asked to add her name in support.

“This is not a violation of the Brown Act. I can practically guarantee it,” Hailey said. “There was no meeting where we colluded on anything. Our constitutional rights to free speech don’t end because we’re members of a board.”

The Brown Act specifically bars elected officials from privately holding “serial meetings,” according to the Californians Aware website, which describes a scenario much like what Hailey described:

For example, a chain of communications involving contact from member A to member B who then communicates with member C would constitute a serial meeting in the case of a five-person body. Similarly, when a person acts as the hub of a wheel (member A) and communicates individually with the various spokes (members B and C), a serial meeting has occurred.

Francke could not be reached Friday afternoon for further comment.

EMILY ALPERT

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