Change in direction: Tahoe Truckee Airport board members move away from public interviews to fill vacancy | SierraSun.com
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Change in direction: Tahoe Truckee Airport board members move away from public interviews to fill vacancy

Rebecca O’Neil
Special to the Sierra Sun

Four remaining members of the Tahoe Truckee Airport District board considered the cost-benefit of appointment or special election to fill their fifth position, vacated just 108 days before the November election, during a Sept. 4 Zoom meeting.

Ultimately, the board agreed to conduct private interviews with board applicants and reconvene Oct. 13 to deliberate.

Five candidates — Ken Aronson, David Diamond, Leigh Golden, and incumbents Teresa O’Dette and Rick Stephens — are running for three seats on the board. These candidates, including the latter two incumbents, may apply for Jim Morrison’s position, said Truckee Tahoe Airport District’s Legal Counsel Josh Nelson, but would conclude their term in 2022.

Morrison’s seat isn’t one up for election in November.

“The private process is not really a private process. Any decision or discussion on the board has to happen in a public meeting.”— Josh NelsonTahoe Truckee Airport District legal counsel

O’Dette, an incumbent and board president, and vice president Mary Hetherington said during the Sept. 4 meeting they would like to avoid the public interview process used in the replacement of Morgan Goodwin on Truckee Town Council in August 2019. Truckee Mayor David Polivy said although he did not necessarily experience the “heartburn” described by Hetherington during that four-hour process, he was uncomfortable.

“You’re talking about people in front of them,” Polivy said. “It was challenging and somewhat awkward, mostly because you’re interviewing someone in a public realm.”

The special district’s legal counsel Josh Nelson said discussions with individual applicants outside of a public meeting is permitted under the Brown Act, but with certain restrictions.

“The private process is not really a private process,” Nelson said. “Any decision or discussion on the board has to happen in a public meeting.”

According to the serial meeting provision in the Brown Act, the majority of members of a legislative body may not convene outside of a lawful meeting to discuss, deliberate or take action on any item of business within the subject matter jurisdiction of the body.

“They’re allowed to communicate, but not on matters that directly concern the board,” California News Publishers Association staff lawyer Brittney Barsotti said. “There’s no serial communication.”

According to a document created by EmpowerLA, an organization dedicated to promoting citizen involvement in their local government, serial communication refers to any kind of communication involving less than a quorum of the board, but when consolidated makes up the majority of the board. Communication may take place when one board member contacts all or the majority of the members individually or if one board member contacts another board member, and then that board member contacts another, and then that board member contacts another, and so on.

Instead, the airport district board members decided to connect with applicants one-on-one, before publicly discussing their findings.

The board may also still determine to move forward with a special election as oppose to making an appointment.

Nelson said the agenda for the correlating board meeting will include a list of applicants and the board’s options — appointing someone, calling an election or allowing the county to take over the process.

“At the meeting, there will be public comment and an opportunity for applicants to present to the board and the public,” Nelson said. “In addition, any appointment or action requires a public vote by the board.”

Rebecca O’Neil is a reporter for The Union, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun based in Grass Valley. Contact her at roneil@theunion.com.


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