Citizens file complaint with state regarding Plumas BOS access

Tired of waiting for Plumas County officials to address concerns regarding access to Board of Supervisors meetings, citizens are taking their issue to the state.
“We filed a complaint last week with the state attorney general Xavier Becerra as well as Gov. Newsom that Plumas County is not providing adequate public access to public meetings and hearings during the COVID-19 crisis, particularly during the regional stay at home order now in effect,” said Portola resident Josh Hart. “We intend to go to court if an appropriate remote solution is not put in place ASAP.”
Hart said it is inappropriate to continue to hold in-person meetings  when “infection is rampant” in the community.
“Holding meetings without an online/toll-free telephone comment opportunity during a lockdown risks public health, cuts off the ability for the community to hear what others are saying at meetings, makes public input impossible for those who are elderly and vulnerable, and is in violation of state law,” Hart said.
Other agencies in the county have made accommodations in the time of COVID. The schools — including Plumas Unified, Plumas Charter and Feather River College, the city of Portola, the three healthcare districts and other entities are holding board meetings with public access via Zoom or dial-in options. Members of the public can virtually “raise their hand” when they want to comment on an issue under consideration.
Hart’s group, Plumas Wired! (a non-partisan group of Plumas County residents with the goal of expanding safer, more reliable and affordable wired communications), reviewed the policies of other counties around the state. “We have graded each of California’s 58 counties on their COVID-era policies for access to meetings policies (see link below). According to the research, 51 counties use zoom or similar systems to provide access, or at least a voicemail system where people can leave messages that are played at board meetings. While voicemail access was enough to give counties a “C” in the Plumas Wired! rating system, Hart said “this is generally not as desirable as having a full remote participation option.” Six counties will read e-mails aloud and one (San Bernardino) has a couple of remote access locations.
And according to the group’s research, Plumas and Fresno are the only counties in the state to deny any kind of remote testimony opportunity — and those two counties received an “F” — failing to provide even basic hearing comment access during lockdown. “We hope both Plumas and Fresno counties will work harder to improve their grades, and we look forward to moving them up to an ‘A’ in our results table so residents have full access to their elected officials,” Hart said.
Plumas News spoke to the county about this issue early in the crisis and again last week. County Administrator Gabriel Hydrick said that the county is researching options, with the effort led by Clerk to the Board Nancy DaForno.
“I am heartened to know that the county is working on this. However, this should have been done in March with the first lockdown order, and it should not require threats of lawsuits, and complaints to the attorney general and governor to push Plumas County to do the right (and legal) thing,” Hart said. “There were dozens of people who wanted to speak at the board remotely last week against the mine (a proposed mine expansion near Portola), but were not accommodated despite numerous requests. “
Plumas Wired! obtained data from the spreadsheet created by the California Clerk of the Board of Supervisors Association as well as telephone interviews with clerks of the board between Jan. 4-8 (these results are combined in the multi-colored table attached):
COVID telecom policies.pdf

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