When you’re sending an email, make sure to check that the addresses you’re sending it to are valid. Especially if you’re sending a board meeting agenda for, say, the Tulare Local Healthcare District.
The Visalia Times-Delta has alleged that the Tulare Local Healthcare District violated the Brown Act when it incorrectly typed out the email addresses of multiple newspapers, including the Visalia daily, The Fresno Bee, and one Valley Voice reporter.
That email contained a “special board meeting” agenda for January 31 — such agendas are required to be sent out at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting.
The text of the law requires a “written notice to each member of the legislative body and to each local newspaper of general circulation and radio or television station requesting notice in writing.”
The Voice is not considered a “newspaper of general circulation” because it is not printed inside Tulare County; it still receives notifications from the district, along with other local news outlets.
At 3:59pm on January 30, that agenda was sent to multiple reporters whose email addresses were spelled correctly, including:
- Jim Houck, a former Times-Delta reporter,
- Joseph Oldenbourg, the Voice’s editor,
- Christina Fan and Brian Johnson, ABC30 reporters,
- P.K. Whitmire, a K-TIP radio reporter,
Multiple reporters’ addresses were spelled incorrectly:
- Lewis Griswold, a Fresno Bee reporter, spelled [email protected],
- Tony Maldonado, this Voice reporter, spelled [email protected],
- Luis Hernandez, a Times-Delta reporter, spelled [email protected],
This reporter later received a corrected email on January 30 at 8:12pm.
At the hospital’s January 25 meeting, the district’s board of directors voted to bring its website and public relations in-house; still, a staff member at the hospital sent out the agenda for the January 31 special meeting.
Rick Elkins, the district’s public relations volunteer, was unavailable to send out the January 31 meeting agenda.
“I sent staff the notice list I’ve been using since July 2017. If cut and pasted, [there] shouldn’t be any typos,” Kevin Northcraft, the district’s chairman, said in a text message. “We strive to exceed public notice and open meetings requirements, given former management didn’t follow the rules. To avoid any question, we will ratify the actions of 1/31 at the meeting today.”
Larry Blitz, the hospital’s interim CEO, confirmed that Northcraft had provided his staff with a media list.
“We talked to Kevin last week — we did notify all of the people that Kevin gave us; his list of people on public notice,” Blitz said. “That we did, and we actually have documentation – we also called all the board directors or left a message with them.”
Blitz said that any potential Brown Act violations were news to him when the Times-Delta‘s reporter called him.
“I said, I don’t know what you’re talking about – he said, this person didn’t get this, and that person didn’t get that,” Blitz said.
“As far as we’re concerned there were no Brown Act violations. It surely wasn’t intended,” he added. “If there was a mistake, we surely want to know about it and correct it.”
Northcraft sent out an agenda for the district’s February 6 special meeting. Blitz anticipated that volunteers would continue to send out agendas until the hospital is able to hire administrative staff for board matters.
Elkins the district’s public relations volunteer, sent out a second email after Northcraft’s to local media outlets.
“Just want to be sure everyone received this,” it read, with an attached agenda.