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Probe of Trustees Is Sought

Oxnard attorney wants D.A.'s office to check whether open meetings law was violated by college district board in Westin settlement.

November 01, 2002|Amanda Covarrubias | Times Staff Writer

An Oxnard attorney is asking the district attorney's office to look into possible violations of the state open meetings law by community college trustees in their contract settlement with former Chancellor Philip Westin.

Attorney Kevin Ready says in a letter sent this week to Ventura County Dist. Atty. Michael Bradbury that the board of trustees may have broken the law by failing to notify the public in September that it had reached a settlement agreement with Westin, who was forced from office over his spending habits.

"Seeing what came out in the last week or two about the settlement, it didn't seem right to me," Ready said Thursday. "Open government is meant to let the people know what's going on. We have an election where this is an issue, and people don't know about it until a month later."

Special Assistant Dist. Atty. Tom Harris said Thursday he will review the letter when he receives it. The complaint would be the second against the Ventura County Community College District board over alleged violations of the open meetings law, or Brown Act, Harris said.

The first was in a lawsuit filed in July on behalf of county taxpayers. That action contended trustees broke the law May 28 when they approved Westin's original contract, which raised his salary 16%, to $203,000 a year.

The lawsuit claimed the board failed to properly notify the public that a discussion would be taking place that day regarding a raise for Westin. The D.A.'s office has not taken any action on that complaint.

Ready states in his letter that Westin and board President Norman Nagel signed the settlement agreement Sept. 26, but trustees did not announce the deal until last week, despite repeated requests from the public and news media for information.

"If indeed it was signed Sept. 26, as the document says, and the public or the media asks for a copy of it, they have to give it to you," Ready said.

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