The San Francisco School Board’s hasty action to replace retiring Superintendent Carlos Garcia appears to have run afoul of California’s open meeting law.
The board called a closed meeting on March 8 to discuss Garcia’s resignation, but it failed to post a notice about the meeting on the district’s website, as the Brown Act requires. A notice was reportedly posted at district headquarters.
At the meeting, the board decided to begin negotiating with Deputy Superintendent Richard Carranza. Members disagree on whether they held a formal vote.
Yee said a formal vote was taken, with five members voting in favor, one against and one absent.
“We did a motion and a second and we voted to go into negotiations,” agreed board member Hydra Mendoza, echoing Yee’s recollection.
However board member Jill Wynns had a different recollection.
“I don’t remember taking a vote,” Wynns said. “I remember us going around the table and asking, ‘Are you comfortable with this?’”
Under the Brown Act, the board must report publicly on “action taken to appoint, employ … or otherwise affect the employment status of a public employee.” First Amendment lawyer Terry Franke said that a strict interpretation of that clause would exempt “interim or tentative motions” toward employing someone.
When the board votes in a special meeting in closed session, it generally reads results publicly at the next meeting. There were no items from closed sessions read at the board’s March 13 meeting, and it was unclear whether a report was read March 8. The Brown Act requires that reports be read publicly immediately after a closed session.
Garcia announced on March 14 that he would step down at the end of the year, and the school board announced that it had begun negotiating with Carranza.