LANCASTER — Concerned citizens of the Antelope Valley filed a 73-page complaint with the Bureau of Fraud and Corruption Prosecutions Public Integrity Division of Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s Office, alleging violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act by Antelope Valley Union High School District Board President Robert “Bob” Davis, Vice President Victoria Ruffin, and Clerk Amanda Parrell.
The Brown Act is the state law that guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies. The law makes public officials accountable for their actions to the public that elected them to serve.
In regard to alleged Brown Act violations, the complaint states, “(W)e are concerned with items being discussed in closed session that are not appropriate for closed session, discussions in closed session that were not agendized, and/or serial meetings happening outside of public (B)oard meetings in general.”
The complaint includes the names of 177 people who asked to be named. It also noted the more than 12,000 people who showed their concern in signing recall petitions for Davis, Ruffin and Parrell. The trio faced a potential recall election for a series of 3-2 actions they did shortly after Ruffin and Parrell joined the Board last December. The effort fell short when recall supporters could not collect enough signatures in the time alloted.
Davis, Ruffin and Parrell did not respond to email questions regarding the complaint by press time.
“We have received a complaint and are reviewing the allegation. We have no further comment at this time,” Richard Santiago, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s office wrote in an email.
The Brown Act defines a meeting as any congregation of a majority of the members of a legislative body at the same time and location to hear, discuss, deliberate or take action on any item that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body.
“A majority of the members of a legislative body shall not, outside a meeting authorized by this chapter, use a series of communications of any kind, directly or through intermediaries, to discuss, deliberate or take action on any item of business that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body,” the law states.
Therein lies the rub.
The complaint includes examples of alleged serial meetings, such as changes to the days and times of the Board’s regular meetings.
At the Dec. 12 meeting, the Board voted in public to table the calendar of regular Board meetings, scheduled for 5 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of the month. The calendar is brought back at the Jan. 24 meeting, with the meeting time changed to 7 p.m. and the days changed to the second and fourth Thursday of the month.
“There has been no discussion of this new calendar in a public meeting prior to this meeting,” the complaint states. “The newly proposed calendar changes the 20+ year precedent of established meeting day and time for (B)oard meetings, however, appears on the agenda ready to vote on without any discussion amongst (B)oard members. This new calender perfectly caters to the schedule of new board member Victoria Ruffin, who had a work conflict on the days and times of the previous (B)oard meetings.”
Rush and McGrady were not consulted about days and times that would work for them to meet. The discussion is stopped when members of the public attempt to provide input on the disruptive nature of the new calendar days and times, according to the complaint.
The Board majority approved the calendar 3-2 with Rush and McGrady voting no.
The complaint details other changes to the Board’s calendar, such as a Board meeting held on Aug. 8 meeting. The original meeting was scheduled for Aug. 15.
“No public meeting occurred discussing a date change,” the complaint states. “No announcement is made to the public about the change, only an email to employees. This change without discussion or notification appears to be in violation of Education Code 35140, Time and Place of Meetings, and Board Bylaw 9320(a).”
The Board’s Aug. 29 meeting, as listed on the District’s website and approved at the Jan. 24 meeting, did not take place. There was no public announcement the meeting was canceled.
The complaint also highlights contracts awarded to K12 Secure and D’Vacor Entertainment Group.
K12 Secure is a company started by Bruce Frank, Davis’ former co-worker. The complaint includes a screen grab of Davis’ Facebook page where Frank was listed under Davis’ “Family Members” section. That has since been changed.
The Board majority hired D’Vacor Entertainment Group to produce personal websites for them. D’Vacor Vice President Rose Lyles had a previous relationship with Ruffin through various organizations, events and campaigns,the complaint said.
Lyles ultimately pulled D’Vacor’s contract with the District because she deemed it was no longer a good fit for her company.
“Please understand that the concerned citizens of the Antelope Valley have attempted to work with the (B)oard majority to rectify many of the issues that we as a community are facing,” the complaint said. “Unfortunately, the (B)oard majority is unwilling to actually listen to our concerns.”