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CCC District III restriction of public information

Original post made by CDSI Research, another community, on Jun 14, 2010

An interesting question from global research editor, subscriber news service: “What caused the Bay Area News Group’s Sunday article on Discovery Bay and the conflicts with District III and county departments? Any guesses?” REF: Web Link

Research Editor’s comments: “I have just researched the many attempts by news media and other groups to access information at the county and in each district. The evidence is abundant that supervisors and department heads have delayed and ignored requests for public information.”

Dear Emily:

Nothing in Contra Costa County and local governments’ restriction of communication is even subtle. A simple review of public meeting policies illustrates that there is no interactive process for neighborhood and community groups to communicate with boards, councils, committees, commissions or departments. Each 3 minute presentation in such meetings is unanswered by policy and most often ignored by such government groups. More importantly, important issues are handled by consent prior to public meetings and further restrict public discussion of very questionable decisions.

I would assume that you received the same district 3 news releases that were part of BANG’s story and likely see a need to illustrate the reasons residents throughout district 3 have used multiple requests to achieve any release of information or employed counsel in the absence of such release.

Hal/CDSI Research

Comments (12)

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Posted by Dissapointed Constituent
a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2010 at 10:50 am

This type of government attitude has only been with the latest (current) Supervisor. She believes county information is a secret.

I am counting the days in hopes of a new Supervisor. I am so dissapointed.

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Posted by Don Flint
a resident of another community
on Jun 22, 2010 at 10:39 pm

I live in Discovery Bay and have previously supported both Mary and Dave Piepho. Infortunately, I can attest to Supervisor Piepho's negative attitude toward public inquiries as well as her questionable use of county assets for her own personal gain.

A little background: Mary scheduled CCC CAO David Twa (a very valuable county asset) to speak at a $100 per plate luncheon to raise funds for her personal office holder account. When questioned, Mr. Twa explained that he works for the Board of Supervisors and if one of them asks him to come talk to a group, he is compelled to do so. As he explained, it is part of his job.

It seemed to me that by booking Mr. Twa as the headlining act for her personal fundraising event, Mary abused her position and misused this valuable county asset.

As part of my research into these questionable activities on the part of Supervisor Piepho I requested from her office information and documents related to these account(s). Her office failed to respond in a timely manner. My request was submitted on March 24th, 2010. I followed up on this request on March 31st and again on April 5th without the courtesy of a response.

I attended the BOS meeting on April 13th to address Supervisor Piepho directly during the public comment portion of the agenda. I explained that my request had not been met with a response within the statutory time frames and asked for an acknowledgment that she had received it. Mary announced to her fellow board members that my request had been handled in a manner consistent with all public records requests received by her office. In other words, Mary admitted that her office does not adhere to the statutuory time frames for public records requests as a matter of course.

Before I left the chamber on April 13th, a county employee directed me to a woman by the name of Tomi Van De Brooke who introduced herself to me as a member of Mary’s staff. Ms. Van De Brook explained that my request required a thorough legal analysis to determine that the Supervisor was not required to turn over information related to her office holder account because that was a personal account and used for many purposes, including campaigns.

Ms. Van De Brooke then berated me for requesting this information. She accused me of wasting “thousands of hours” with “‘all” of my requests for information. Several times she repeated her charge that I have wasted thousands of hours of county time with my harassing requests for information and in doing so have cost the County many thousands of dollars of tax payer money.

I suggested to Ms. Van De Brooke that she should be more supportive and helpful to citizens who seek information of their elected officials. She said that she didn’t mind honest requests for information, but mine were not honest. I asked her if she was calling me a liar and she said yes, she was willing to be very transparent when someone wastes taxpayer money as she alleged I was. She went on to tell me that she has asked County Counsel to bring badgering charges (?) against me, but has been told that they can’t do that. She left me with the impression that with any future request for information I risk losing my right to seek information from Supervisor Piepho.

I found her entire verbal assault on me, which took place in a public corridor, to be a thinly veiled threat to me and other members of the public not to pursue our rights to ask questions of our government. It appeared to me that she may have been attempting to whip up the some of the public in the corridor to the point where they would attack me for wasting taxpayer dollars in these difficult budget times. There is no doubt that her words and manners were intended to dissuade me, which I resent. Beyond that, her words may well have instigated negative actions by the crowd against me, or served as warning that other interested citizen should not request information from our County staff.

In order to protect myself and others from a repeat of this situation in the future, I have filed a formal complaint with Supervisor Piepho against Ms. Van De Brooke for exerting pressure to dissuade the public from requesting information from the County. It is important, I believe, that her actions are noted for the record and that she be afforded the opportunity to be trained in dealing with her external customers (the public) and applying the letter and spirit of the law as it relates to public records requests.

It should come as no great surprise that I have not received any acknowledgement from Supervisor Piepho’s office or anyone else within the County to my complaint against a member of her staff.

I have spoken with another citizen who was treated similarly by Ms. Van De Brooke, and I feel strongly that she needs to stop all efforts to intimidate the public and limit their access to information. Also, Supervisor Piepho's lack of response to my complaint demonstrates her lack of committment to a cordial staff and an informed public. As a former supporter of the Piephos I find this extremely disappointing.

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Posted by McGee
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2010 at 8:07 am

I took am from the Brentwood area. It is very sad when out local government is run like a dictatorship with our local Supervisor. District III Supervisor has been attmepting to hide issues from the public since her unfortunate election to this County. Slithering through the halls of government is not what we asked for or deserve. Her promises are empty and continues to act as if she is entitled to badger members of the community for wanting to participate in the local communities. Now Mr. Flint has to experience harrssment from her staff who doesn't want to work or also thinks it is none of the public's business to want to know what is being done for our communities and why. Sad day in this County when it is allowed to continue. Working hard to get rid of this queen is in the cards.

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Posted by Thomas Jefferson
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2010 at 8:20 am

The democracy will cease to exist
when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.

Thomas Jefferson

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Posted by McGee
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2010 at 9:06 am

I invite you to go to this website below to view just what our Supervisor gets paid sometimes twice to refuse to allow the public to know what is going out in our government. You will be shocked she gets paid that much to treat us like 2nd class citizens. Maybe that is why her entitlement attitude comes in. You can also view her arrogant husbands Deposition of insane statements about how he views government and destroys documents. The two of them make quite a pair. Please Take a peek.....

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Posted by Disappointed Constituent
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2010 at 11:00 am

I too am a resident of over twenty years in District III closer to Discovery Bay. It is true tha Mary Piepho seems to think her office and duties are of a secretive nature. I posed a question to her regarding special taxes and thier legal use. Her answer after I pushed to get an answer was " It's Confidential Information ". I have never recieved any similar type answers from the previous five supervisors in my District. Those Supervisors were helpful, supportive, an easily accessable. Mary is just the opposite and as once I originally supported her, my experiences with her has not only distanced me from helping the community, but have concluded in my opinion that she is dishonest and practices immoral decissions. Something that Contra Costa citizens should not tolerate.

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Posted by John
a resident of Walnut Creek
on Jun 26, 2010 at 5:01 pm

I too am disappointed in Mary Piepho. I put aside my bias about Mary's personal background and experience,and voted for her believing she was the more conservative of the candidates and that would lend some balance to the predominantly democratic County board of supervisors. Boy was I wrong. Evidenced more so by her Chief of Staff,Tomi Van de Brooke being revealed as a democrat herself. In the course of my job, I have had to speak with Ms. Van de Brooke on several occasions, and my in my personal experience have found her difficult, to be polite.

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Posted by Campaign to Neuter Nuts
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Residents of Danville,

I am sorry that someone left the gate open in Discovery Bay and some of our nuts are now mingling with some of yours. The article linked to by Mr. Multi-personality talks about the dysfunctional nature of a small, but vocal group of individuals in our town. Don Flint felt a need to post in your forum here with proof of the claims made in the article that we have a few folks that cause trouble for the many. If you had direct experience with these people, knew their history or spoke with some of their neighbors you would understand these outbursts are simply manifestations of people with low self image who wish to spread their internal pain to others.

These posters would have you believe they are just citizens exercising their legal rights and casually attempting to gather information. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the Times article originally linked it discusses a large amount of correspondence from one individual. We’re not talking 10 or even 20 letters. We’re talking in excess of 100, many of them pages long. These are repetitive requests for the same information, over and over, some of them trying to revive controversies that are years old and long since settled. If you read just a sampling of the 10 lbs of typewriter generated correspondence(Bill is old school), you will see it’s simple harassment. When as person tells you in their own words that they wouldn’t be writing if the elected officials would just give them what they want, that should tell you the mindset.

If the requests were reasonable or valid, I would say they have a case. But these are people trying to push their personal agendas on an entire community by bombarding our services district and staff with the endless requests. It is harassment, pure and simple.

Don, I’m pretty sure you’ve been told why you’re not getting an answer. You’re asking a fund raising question of Supervisor Piepho through an official county email account. You cannot co-mingle those two things. Fundraising must be a distinct and separate activity. You inquiries are asking Supervisor Piepho to break the law and she’s not going to do that. When you stood before the full board with this same ridiculous request and got silence in return, it should have told you something. Add 2 and 2 already and stop your whining.

As for Tomi expressing her dissatisfaction, she is just the first person in line, Don. You are wasting thousands of hours of staff time and tens of thousands of taxpayer’s dollars in pursuit of your personal vendetta with the Piephos. That is unacceptable. You better get yourself lots of blank copies of complaint forms, because I think you’re about to see a concerted effort by citizens to ask you to reign it in. Exercising one’s rights guaranteed under the sunshine laws is one thing. Its assumes some amount of personal responsibility and reasonable behavior on the part of the requestor. Nothing about your efforts is responsible or reasonable based on what I’ve seen and read. The website linked by one poster is your own smear merchant site. There’s nothing noble about it. It claims to be purely informative. Just join the mailing list and you get bimonthly, inflammatory commentary and innuendo from none other than Don Flint.

Don, the fact that you complained to the DA and you’ve gotten nothing back should be telling you something about how he views your antics. You seem a little slow on the uptake.

McGee is the resurrection of the name of another of the local critics who untimely passed last year. Creepy to see his name being used that like. See the 2nd class citizen comment and ask yourself if self image isn’t a root factor as suggested.

Finally there is Disappointed Constituent who I believe is none other than Richardson himself, the central figure of the article. I’ve read enough of his manifestos to recognize the writing style. At one time he was offered an opportunity by the Sheriff in a private meeting the Sheriff claims never happened to sit on a board overseeing a special tax within the community. Bill, you seem to forget there were other people at the yacht club get together. The Sheriff has been quoted in the Times that he would never support a local oversight committee. But what he meant to say is that he would never support one that didn’t include his hand-picked cronies so he would control the message. Eventually the issue was resolved, the Supervisor appointed a committee and poor Bill got left on the outside looking in. It will take years, if ever, for him to get over that one.

Bill is complaining about a legal opinion rendered by County Counsel to the Board of Supervisors regarding this special tax. It’s protected under attorney-client privilege, no different than any reader here who would enjoy such protection with their attorney. Bill and Don think those legal protections should be suspended for their needs and have repeatedly demanded documents related to this exchange. “It’s confidential” is the paraphrased response they have received. Nothing sinister, unless you’re a little off your rocker.

These people operating with malice as their primary motivator.

Once again our apologies to the readers. We’re exploring options for adding mental health resources out here in East County to address this issue. The possibilities of our nuts inbreeding with your multi-personality nuts in the valley is too frightening to be ignored.

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Posted by John
a resident of Walnut Creek
on Jun 28, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Neuter Nuts sounds like Tomi. She likes to post on blogs with aliases, rather than identifying herself. If not Tomi, certainly someone close to her, and obviously a District 3 Supervisor insider. Mr. Flint and every other citizen has the right to request whatever County records they wish, regardless of motive, and most information is not confidential. Unlike Neuter Nuts, Mr. Flint obviously gave his identity for the records request which is not required. County policy also includes provisions to recover certain costs incurred by the County from the requester. As if having Mr. Twa, Contra Costa CAO who serves at the pleasure of the Board, speak at an election fundraiser isn't sketchy enough, to say the least, whoever Neuter Nuts truly is is making Mary Piepho look even worse in my eyes.

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Posted by Tim
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Don Flint is the Hal Baily of Discovery Bay.

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Posted by Danville Newbie
a resident of Danville
on Jun 29, 2010 at 11:05 am

I don't mind hearing about experiences that other people have with the county, even if those people don't hail from Danville.

This stuff is hard to believe! If true it signifies problems.

A county employee within the course and scope of his job is used by Piepho to promote fundraising? Does anyone think that's kosher?

Van De Brooke chastising Flint for his request for information? NeuterNuts thinks that's ok. Really? There is no excuse for the county to intimidate anyone seeking information. It's not up to NeuterNuts or the county to decide which requests are and are not reasonable. Are we sure that NeuterNuts isn't Mary herself.
I hope Flint should report Van De Brooke to the ACLU.

Neuter Nuts talks like he has a lot of information straight from Piepho. Does that account for the excessive name calling. Doesn't she realize that ridicule and name calling do nothing more than make her feel better while demonstrating to the rest of us that she can’t win the argument with facts?

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Posted by Campaign to Neuter Nuts
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2010 at 11:36 am

Facts you say, Danville newbie?

Did you miss the fact I stated previously that Mr. Flint was asking for and expecting Supervisor Piepho to break the law on his account and that his grandstanding effort at the Board of Supervisor's meeting was also in that vein?

Did you miss the fact that Mr. Flint is not a casual requestor of documents, but vexatious requestor simply digging for information that he can(and has) twisted or posted out of context to smear the reputation of people? And he does this on your and my dime. Would it be reasonable in your mind if he marched into a county office and demanded, “I want everything”?

Flint’s antics aren’t limited to Piepho. He goes after the services district, the county’s Community Development Dept, the DA, LAFCO. The guy seems to have a lot of free time to make a lot of people miserable.

Are OK with that behavior?

Twa was simply providing information on county finances at the meeting. An activity he does with considerable frequency in numerous venues. Flint has it painted as something nefarious and you took the bait.

People used to yell fire in crowded theaters because they thought it was funny to watch the stampede. People died from that stupidity, so laws had to be passed. People like Flint and Richardson abuse the sunshine laws for their own selfish reasons and when it becomes overly burdensome to the function of government, laws get passed to deal with people like them. But as is the nature of such legislation, they usually overextend and hurt innocent people who respect the rights and the access. That's the blowback factor. It happened last month in Hawaii with the birthers abusing the system.

There is bill in the California Legislature(currently on hold) to address just the sort of abuse. Jerry Brown supports it. Starting to see why it might be on hold for the next session?

Nobody is trying to take away his rights, so chill with the ACLU bit. It's in all our best interest if people like Flint exercise some level of self control and responsibility so that we don't all suffer the consequences of his foolishness and if VandeBrooke suggested he do that she was in essence doing us all a favor.

I’m sorry if you took offense to my use of the word “nuts” as I felt smear merchant was a bit too abrasive to use here.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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