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The William S. Hart Union High School District governing board is set Wednesday, behind closed doors, to discuss litigation that alleges district officials shared thousands of emails among one another that they then did not make available to the public.  

The litigation, which was filed in May of last year, alleges that district staff violated the Brown Act, California Public Records Act and the California Constitution by withholding emails that are typically considered public record and available for constituents to read upon request.  

The Hart district board is set to have its  discussion during the closed session portion of its Wednesday night meeting. If any action is taken, they are required to report out those developments at the start of the regular meeting.  

In the 31-page complaint filed by four anonymous petitioners — one Jane Doe and three John Doe’s — the group alleges that the district is “retaining over 5,600 public records” of “great public interest and importance” to the public.  

“The district engaged in serial meetings that are expressly prohibited by the Brown Act by communicating via social media, electronic messaging and text messaging,” reads the original litigation. “The district also violated the Brown Act by failing to read or post public comments made to a majority of the board.” 

Additionally, the petitioners requested that they remain anonymous in the filings, fearing “retaliation” by government officials.  

The complaint does not disclose, however, what the petitioners specifically believe the contents of the various correspondences were other than they are thought to contain discussions and deliberations regarding future board actions and agenda items.  

The petition filed by the Jane and John Does requests that the court order the district to cure and correct any and all actions taken by the board during their meetings between Jan. 13, 2021, and March 27, 2021, due to their belief that the actions taken during those meetings violated the Public Records Act and were all therefore illegal.  

“On May 5, 2021, the district, via counsel, admitted the existence of potentially 5,600 emails that potentially violate the Brown Act as well as the California Constitution and Public Records Act in that they have yet to be made available,” reads the petition filed by the anonymous group of four, adding that the group claims to have filed 78 separate California Public Records Act requests over a period of four months in order to receive the communications.  

In a response to the petitioners’ initial letters and “cure and correct demand” — which was sent out before the petition was filed — the district’s hired law firm Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, or AALRR, stated that the petitioners sent more than 127 pages of copied and pasted board agendas, making it “difficult” for the district’s representation to determine what the four plaintiffs wanted.  

It goes on to cite government code saying that before a “cure and correct” can begin, the petitioner needs to “clearly describe” the challenged actions of a legislative body. It goes on to say that the petitioners’ own lawyers said that clarifying their complaint with their client would be “overly burdensome.” 

Additionally, the district’s lawyers argued that the petitioners’ position was flawed due to the communications not falling under a set of enumerated statutes that can be cured and corrected. 

“The district denies that it has violated either the Brown Act or the Public Records Act,” reads a letter from the law firm. “And, as stated above, your emails allege violations that are not governed by the ‘cure and correct’ statute. Accordingly, the district is denying the demands contained in your emails.” 

Likely up for discussion during the Hart board’s closed session on Wednesday is the most recent updates from the case, which included a judge, on July 1 ordering that the CPRA violation allegation be amended to clarify the petitioners’ claims.  

Additionally, the judge ruled that the Brown Act and declaratory relief causes of action can be continued forward. However, the fourth cause of action was dismissed. 

Additionally, the court has ultimately ruled that only one of the “John Does” still has a chance to file anonymously; Jane Doe and John Doe 3 asserted “no facts to support the claim” that if their names were made public there could be possible retaliation against them (John Doe 1 had dismissed his request). 

The next court date for the litigation is expected to take place at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles on Sept. 2. The court will hear the arguments on John Doe’s anonymity for filing, as well as hold a trial setting conference.  

The post Hart district to discuss updates in Brown Act lawsuit appeared first on Santa Clarita Valley Signal.