Above: Carlsbad City Council, from left: Keith Blackburn, Barbara Hamilton, Mayor Matt Hall, Cori Schumacher and Priya Bhat-Patel. Photo courtesy City of Carlsbad
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated.
CARLSBAD — For the second time in the past several weeks, questions are being raised about whether the City Council violated the Brown Act.
The most recent alleged violation occurred on May 7 after a vote was taken concerning the council’s opposition to the D-III option for the McClellan-Palomar Airport.
The first incident came to light after Citizens for a Friendly Airport sent a demand letter following a March 27 special meeting to approve the lawsuit settlement agreement with the county over the airport. The resident group alleged that the special meeting was not properly noticed by the city.
The City Council voted to reaffirm its settlement decision with the county on May 7, but did not admit a violation.
The Brown Act requires an elected body to notify the public of an item 48 hours (for a special meeting) prior to taking a vote unless several exceptions are met.
The latest violation allegation stems from the council’s approval for the city to oppose the San Diego County Board of Supervisor’s action to re-classify McClellan-Palomar Airport to a D-III facility.
The motion was brought forth by Councilwoman Cori Schumacher.
Schumacher and councilwomen Priya Bhat-Patel and Barbara Hamilton both voted yes, while Mayor Matt Hall voted against and Councilman Keith Blackburn abstained.
The City Council held a closed session meeting May 21 regarding the issue.
However, Assistant City Attorney Walter Chung said there was no reportable action.
A letter sent to Carlsbad City Attorney Celia Brewer by resident Larry Posner questioned the validity and demanded the council cure (correct the action) and reverse its decision.
Another letter sent by San Marcos resident Ray Bender, who is a retired Los Angeles County attorney who has written in opposition of the airport master plan in the San Diego Free Press, disputes Posner’s claims and says the city acted within the law regarding the vote in question.
Bender’s letter states Schumacher’s motion, along with the accompanying vote, is legal, stating it meets the requirements set by the Brown Act.
Schumacher said during the May 7 meeting the safety options by San Diego County staff and the Palomar Airport Advisory Committee recommended the B-II option.
In addition, Conditional Use Permit 172 was already in violation; although the county is not obligated to follow the CUP 172 stipulation; but rather it is a voluntary agreement between the city and county.
The D-III option, she said, is the largest and most expensive one approved by the Board of Supervisors in October 2018.
“I’m not asking us to support anything, just oppose the one that violates everything we’ve talked about,” Schumacher said.
City Manager Scott Chadwick said city staff could have brought back the matter at a later date, but Schumacher declined. Blackburn abstained saying he needed more information, especially since the supervisor’s decision was months ago, and that he was not against the motion.
Brewer, meanwhile, said since the approval or disapproval of the master plan was not on the agenda, it would be recommended to bring the matter back for a presentation and further action.
“I think a better part of wisdom would be to put it on a future agenda item,” she said.
Schumacher added, “If folks don’t know what the B-II option is after two years, then I don’t know what to say. I would like to call for the question (vote).”