Letter to the Editor: Spirit of the law

(This letter is in response to recent news that a senior legal employee tried to communicate the needs of the program but was charged with conflict of interest since she also sits on the Advisory Council to the Supervisors.  Funding for this long-time program was denied.)

A frustrated Mono County Supervisor once complained of “lawyer’s weasel words” and as a long time member of the IMAAA Advisory board I
can now understand.. We are all beginners in this transition  and
actually benefited from the comments during public session since most
of us do not  meet socially outside of the meetings .

I regret that public comment could be construed as illegal communication.  When the Brown Act was still new I remember that three of us on the West Covina Parks and Recreation Commission were not allowed to take the same
elevator to the second floor for the meeting because  the  attorney
advised that it would constitute an illegal meeting. In Inyo county
that has been demoted from rural to frontier, such a prohibition would
be impossible since our small population requires that  officials
mingle socially with plenty of opportunity for communication.

In the past, the IMAAA Advisory  reported to the “Governing Board” not
directly to the Inyo Board of  Supervisors and at times the contractors  were part of the meeting.
The confidentiality that is required by  legal service  prevents us
from really understanding the bulk of their work and the information
we gained during the public comment helped  educate us.  While an
attorney’s opinion is valuable there is a larger question for the
public In our frontier county. Does the opinion of one hired hired gun
trump the decisions of the elected body and does a citizen lose the
right of free speech? The Lone Ranger is only to be found in Lone
Pine, but it would be great to find some way to make the “Law” and “justice ” synonymous.
Selma Calnan
volunteer advocate


3 Responses to Letter to the Editor: Spirit of the law

  1. Marilyn October 24, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    this article refers to “the program” and “IMAAA” without further specifics – what is this in reference to? It all sounds very intriguing but without a clue as to what to look for in other areas this seems like a coded message to me!

    • Benett Kessler October 24, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

      I believe we do refer to the Inyo-Mono Senior Legal Program, funded by California Indian Legal Service and by Inyo County for all seniors. An employee of the senior legal program testified in public comment to the needs of the program. She also sits on the advisory council. The County Counsel ruled she was in conflict of interest even though she did not vote on the funding to which she testified. Now, the County has gone back out to bid in search of a lawyer to do the program.
      Benett Kessler

      • Marilyn October 24, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

        thanks for the clarification – it was not patently obvious to someone coming totally cold upon the story where the “employee” worked – thanks again. M


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