Shandon Water District attempted to appropriate water rights during closed session, DA alleges
District attorney files cease and desist against Shandon Water District
– San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow has issued the Shandon/San Juan Water District a cease and desist order for what Dow says is a violation of the Brown Act.
The DA sent a 27-page letter to the water district this week that alleges, “the Board of Directors of the Shandon-San Juan Water District (SSJWD) violated the Brown Act by going into a closed meeting to discuss matters that should have occurred in open session.”
The March 16, 2021, agenda identifies “Potential Litigation” as the sole justification for going into closed session, “however, based on a review of the agenda and the minutes from the meeting it is clear the board of directors went into closed session and discussed matters that did not involve pending litigation,” the DA says.
“Rather, in closed session, the board discussed the fact that the district had applied to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to appropriate water rights, that it had authorized Board President Willy Cunha to enter into an agreement with NRWMAC and that it authorized legal counsel to enter into an agreement with NRWMAC. These are clearly matters that fall within the “subject matter jurisdiction” of your board—the board for a water district—and include taking steps toward establishing water rights. As such, any discussion about these matters by a majority of the board—even if a decision were not made—should have occurred in open session. The minutes do not offer any information to justify the “pending litigation” exception.”
The board’s decision to go into closed session appears to have been deliberate and for the sole purpose of preventing others from learning that it was attempting to appropriate water rights, the DA alleges.