I write to explain why I asked publicly at the October 18 council meeting that an item be placed on a future council agenda to discuss the letter from NCTD (North County Transit District) sent to Council member Quirk alleging apparent repeated Brown Act violations, and why I was so disappointed that none of my colleagues was willing to support a public discussion of an appropriate response.
First, the letter is serious. It recites multiple apparent Brown Act violations by our representative to NCTD, Mr. Quirk, and asks that they stop. It says that a referral to the State Attorney General or the FPPC is likely if violations continue. (The Brown Act is the ‘sunshine’ law which requires government business to be conducted at open and public meetings.) This letter, a public record, is signed by the NCTD Board chair and vice chair. In my experience, it is unprecedented.
Second, while I don’t know the details of what happened behind the scenes that precipitated this letter, the full council and the public are entitled to hear them. Based on the public record there has been at least one apparent prior violation by Mr. Quirk at NCTD. On May 20, 2021 NCTD’s legal counsel stated on the record that an apparent Brown Act violation had occurred by Mr. Quirk. She stated:
“…[I] note on the record that based on the disclosures that have been made today [about Board member communications received from Mr. Quirk outside a public meeting] it appears likely that there was a violation of the Brown Act by way of serial communication. The penalties…can include civil and criminal penalties if a violation is challenged, it can also result in a ban from holding public office, so that’s the reasons for my original admonition.”
Third, Del Mar has many important issues pending with NCTD, including the bluff fencing, the STB (Surface Transportation Board) petition, confidential settlement talks, safe rail crossings, Coaster operations, and more. If our representative to NCTD has lost the confidence of the NCTD Board and staff it may be time for council to consider a change. I’m not committed to a change without discussion, but this should have been discussed.
Fourth, council member Quirk, and the city’s alternate to NCTD (Mayor Gaasterland), should be asked, publicly, to explain the letter and given a chance to offer any rebuttal. If the NCTD letter is off base, if we should defend our current NCTD representatives, we need to hear that from them and respond appropriately.
Fifth, while it is for NCTD, not Del Mar, to decide if a Brown Act violation occurred at NCTD, it is for Del Mar to decide if our NCTD representative is serving the city well or if a change is warranted. And, it is for the Del Mar council as a whole to discuss that and decide what a city response to the letter should be.
Because Del Mar council policy requires two councilmembers to place an item on the agenda, I asked all four of my colleagues, in open session, to support my request for a public agenda item to discuss this situation and to decide on an appropriate response to NCTD. The silence was deafening. Not one of my colleagues would second my request, so there will be no council discussion, no public explanation, no public input, and no council response. That’s not good government, and is the opposite of the transparency we all pledged to support.
The views in this letter are my own and I do not speak for the city or for other councilmembers.
Dwight Worden, Deputy Mayor