The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors recently revised the rules governing how supervisors disclose who they met with and what information they received before making a decision at a public hearing.
The board voted unanimously June 2 to amend its Rules of Procedure. The requirement only applies to quasi-judicial hearings in which the board rules on things like nuisance abatements, permit revocations, fee waivers, and permits or subdivision appeals. For instance, a specific land-use decision is considered a quasi-judicial matter, whereas approving a land-use ordinance is considered to be a legislative one. The board isn’t required to disclose ex parte communications on administrative or legislative matters.
During the meeting, supervisors expressed a general wariness of disclosing all ex parte communication and opted to only require the disclosures pertaining to quasi-judicial matters.
Ex parte communication disclosures are already required under constitutional and statutory due process laws, which mandate decision makers to disclose any information they receive off the record, just in case someone needs to rebut that information. SLO County Deputy County Counsel Nina Negranti told New Times that board members already make the required ex parte disclosures, and that the new amendment “memorializes” the requirement into their rules of procedure, putting the requirement into writing as part of protocol. The Planning Commission already has such rules. While the disclosures have been a matter of routine, 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson expressed concern that the board would not make the necessary disclosures if they chose to keep the status quo, which was the first of the three options recommended by staff.
“We haven’t done a very good job at all in complying with what’s in the first option.” Gibson said. “This board has simply not done this, and never has explicitly.”
The decision followed a March request for ex parte disclosures by 3rd District Supervisor Adam Hill. He said he initially suggested the new rules after hearing concerns that some members of the board have weekly meetings with the conservative interest group Coalition for Labor Agriculture and Business (COLAB).
“I think that it is in the public interest to know that board members meet with the same special interest group before every public hearing,” Hill said.
-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay