February 24, 2012
Marina Coast Water District voted 4-0 Friday to refer allegations that board member Jan Shriner violated the Brown Act to Grand Jury, even as their own attorney, Lloyd Lowrey, said the issue wouldn't rate: "I believe on a scale of one to 10, that they would regard this toward the bottom end of that scale," Lowrey said.
In question is whether by speaking with Weekly Assistant Editor Kera Abraham about a closed session meeting, Shriner violated the California rules governing public meetings and confidentiality. The paraphrase in question: "Marina Coast board member Jan Shriner says she was told during a special closed session this morning that a press release was forthcoming, but was instructed not to give details to the press."
At request of Board Chair Dan Burns, Marina Coast considered the alleged violation at its most recent board meeting, but tabled the discussion for a special meeting this morning due to a lack of sufficient votes. Shriner abstained from voting.
"There is a trust issue," Burns said today, reiterating his sentiments from the Feb. 16 meeting.
Deputy Assistant District Attorney Terry Spitz reviewed the allegations at the Weekly's request and says there is no criminal violation even if the alleged leak were true. To prosecute a Brown Act violation, he says, evidence must prove "willful or corrupt misconduct in office."
Board member Ken Nishi pressed Shriner as to whether Abraham had embellished her comments. Board member Howard Gustafson expressed concern that perhaps Shriner's comment had been fabricated or misconstrued, describing Weekly reporters as "fiction writers." "I don't consider the Coast Weekly the press." he said.
The Grand Jury may refer cases to prosecutors if they find evidence of criminal activity, or take disciplinary action, through censure, against a public official.