Finding # 10: Directors were difficult to see and comments were difficult to hear due to members being seated behind a dais which had an unusually high front. Whispered conversations between Directors were inappropriate.
Hmmm, what is a dais?
A dais is the wooden wall/bench from behind which the board members sit during the sessions.
To fully understand this finding, you kind of have to go behind the dais and place yourself right there in the lap of Olaf… from the board member’s position, it a very comforting feeling to be able to separate the constituents from the board members. With that comfort comes a relaxed feeling that you are sitting there with good friends. In fact, an imposing feature such as a dais can kind of make the person sitting behind it lose situational awareness…a simple amateur mistake if a person isn’t used to being in the seat of power.
In an effort to provide perspective for this finding, I searched high and low for complaints in similar situations of courtroom furnishings (particularly the dais) presenting ground for a grand jury finding. Not surprisingly, again Rosamond leads the way; only our dais stands in the annals of Kern County Grand Jury history of ever being named in a final report, much less given its very own finding. So here’s the real question.
Is it the dais or the behavior behind the dais that originated the nexus for Finding # 10?
The finding of the Kern County Grand Jury of the high dais front is very unique considering that it is a standard piece of courtroom furnishing. I even tried to order a custom made dais with a custom height…but guess what, they only come in one size. So really, the point of this finding is not the dais, it’s the paid elected officials representing the citizens of Rosamond sitting behind the dais. Using the dais as a tool to gain a “hand up or a tactical advantage” on an upset and otherwise consternation-filled audience.
To reinforce my belief, let’s go back to the 2012-2013 Kern County Grand Jury Report. You see, it’s not unusual for the Grand Jury to create reports on various service districts. In fact, every governing body can expect that is what the Grand Jury is for is to keep them on their toes (Grand Juries investigate governing bodies for two reasons 1) random selection (similar to that of an IRS audit) and 2) when a complaint is filed (this current board had a complaint filed and this report and its findings are the reason for this discussion (you can find the copyright protected article from the March 22, 2013 edition of “The Mojave Desert News” at this URL: http://www.desertnews.com/news/article_d595dbd6-925c-11e2-bc3e-0019bb2963f4.html/ ) for the Grand Jury report from March 2013, “Mojave Desert News” Article the headline reads “Grand Jury Hails RCSD”]) what a difference between the 2 reports. I have included the 2012-2013 Grand Jury Report in the references section, it is Reference # 3.
With that said, I believe the reason the Grand Jury never mentioned the Dias before is because there were never any complaints lodged against previous boards for the unscrupulous practice of board members whispering amongst themselves.
Specifically, the second part of the finding calls out the current board members for “whispering amongst each other”. This is a HUGE NO-NO in a public meeting and as the Kern County Grand Jury found, “inappropriate”, Board members are not supposed to have any secret conversations or whispers among themselves or any type of silent communication, such a passing notes to one another. The very foundation of a public meeting is the fact that it is public, there is a recorder or secretary compiling the minutes of every meetings and ultimately (as I have discussed in a previous section) these minutes need to be able to stand on their own as an accurate representation of what took place in the meeting. The Board members know this! So to act in this manner is clearly an effort to avoid being document in whatever they were whispering about. I realize that we live fairly close to Hollywood and this behavior is straight out of a Hollywood production, in real-life, it’s improper and unprofessional. The Brown Act was written for a reason…that reason being to charge public “elected” officials to do everything in open session so everyone can hear the ideas, arguments, pleadings, questions, etc. so; in a spirit of transparency, the general public and the press know what is going on.
I ask you, go back a view the videos on YouTube and you will see first-hand; the 4 members Al Wallis, Ed MacKay, Olaf Landsgaard and Dennis Shingledecker have always put their heads together whispered among themselves and then pop up with one of them making a motion and a second and then taking a vote. A more senior member of board Byron Glennan never participates in this action “he knows better” in fact quite often when these whisper conventions take place and they are getting ready to vote; quite often Mr. Glennan will get the Board President’s attention and ask to make a comment before the vote is taken. For the record, Mr. Glennan’s comments are always made publicly, from a standing position.
As recent as July 28, 2015 at a Special Board Meeting of the RCSD to discuss implementation of the Landscaping and Lighting Assessment. Just prior to the meeting beginning Mr. Landsgaard was given a microphone, he looked very confused and gave a puzzled look to Mr. Glennan. Without being prompted, Mr. Glennan said, “Here take this, that way no one will accuse you of whispering.” Mr. Landsgaard, snickered and heartily agreed and accepted the microphone which let out an excruciating squeal in the hands on the freshman board member.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5-Q62lV3Sg (video from December 8, 2014)
====================== Finding # 10 states: “Directors were difficult to see and comments were difficult to hear due to members being seated behind a dais which had an unusually high front. Whispered conversations between Directors were inappropriate.”
The RCSD’s official response to Finding # 10: “The Board partially disagrees with this finding. The Board agrees that upgrades to the dais and sound system would be beneficial, however the Board disagrees that directors were difficult to see and comments were difficult to hear. The Board agrees that whispered conversations, if any, between directors are inappropriate.”
To read the next section click here: The Midnight Writings: Finding 11 – “No Parliamentarianism”