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3 City Officials Cleared of Violating Brown Act

Thousand Oaks: D.A. finds no evidence they broke law in conferring about land-swap deal.

April 23, 2002|MARGARET TALEV | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Thousand Oaks Councilwoman Linda Parks and two former planning commissioners did not violate the state's open-meeting law when they conferred about a controversial land-swap deal with developers, the district attorney has concluded.

City Council members who accused Parks and Commissioners Michael Farris and Nora Aidukas of violating the state's Brown Act lacked any evidence to support their claims, Special Assistant Dist. Atty. R. Thomas Harris wrote in a report dated April 15 and released Monday.

Nor was there any evidence to support allegations that Farris and Aidukas conspired with a third commissioner, Claudia Bill-de la Pena, to delay a vote on the plan to preserve nearly 200 acres in an area known as the Western Plateau, Harris wrote.

To the contrary, planning commissioners wanted to "conscientiously read and consider" the details of the land deal, "rather than to be stampeded into making a hasty approval or disapproval recommendation to the council," Harris concluded.

Farris and Aidukas, who were ousted by a majority of the council members because of the controversy, said Harris' report vindicates their actions.

Farris, who plans to run for the council and is suing the city over an aspect of the development deal in question, said the prosecutor's report "closes the door on this and puts the blame squarely on the City Council majority."

Councilman Dan Del Campo, who joined Councilmen Andy Fox and Dennis Gillette in pushing for the investigation, said he was disappointed with the results. The district attorney's office "just kind of touched the surface on this" and failed to consider other evidence, the councilman said. But he declined to elaborate.

In February, the council voted 3 to 2 to censure Parks, oust Farris and Aidukas and call for an investigation after the planning board delayed a recommendation on the land deal.

Under the plan, a 191-acre swath of the Western Plateau would be preserved as open space. In exchange for the land, the developers could build more expensive housing in place of 225 senior and affordable units in the Dos Vientos area.

The deal put Parks, who was a candidate for county supervisor at the time, in a difficult position, her critics said. If she voted for the deal, she might be accused of assisting developers, and if she opposed the plan, it could hurt her reputation as a protector of open space, they said.

The council majority had argued that Farris, Aidukas and Bill-de la Pena seemed to act in an orchestrated fashion when they said they needed more time to consider the deal. The council never asked for an investigation of Bill-de la Pena.

The councilmen argued that Farris and Aidukas were stalling so that Parks and the rest of the council would not have to vote on the measure until after the March 5 election. Parks, who acknowledged that she met individually with commissioners to discuss the Western Plateau deal, was elected to the county Board of Supervisors. She takes office in January.

After making some technical changes to the development deal, the City Council unanimously approved the plan Feb. 27.

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