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Eureka council adopts resolution to avoid litigation following alleged violation

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Eureka Mayor Frank Jager said it’s all a big misunderstanding—

"I never had any outside discussion,” Jager said.

Eureka resident Dale Preston alleges that the council violated the Ralph M. Brown act by taking part in serial meetings without public notice. It stems from the appointment and rescission of Arcata Councilwoman Alex Stillman from the North Coast Railroad Authority board.

"City staff has reviewed the allegations in the letter and has found no merit,” City Attorney Cyndy Day Wilson said this afternoon during a special meeting.

The council voted 4-1 to adopt the resolution that is an ‘unconditional commitment to cease, desist and not repeat past action that is alleged to have violated the Brown Act.’ Linda Atkins voted no, stating that the action was ‘confusing.’

"I’m going to voting against this letter even though I honestly and totally believe in open meetings," Atkins said.

The Mayor City Selection Committee appointed Stillman to the North Coast Railroad Authority Board on May 16. However, she was rescinded two months later after the committee received a letter citing a violation of a government code in the appointment process. Jager opted out of attending that meeting and Mayor Pro Tempore Mike Newman went instead.

"I sent Mayor Pro Temp Newman at that meeting because I felt he better represented what the council's desires were regarding and appointment to the North Coast Railroad Authority."

Fortuna Mayor Doug Strehl would be appointed to the board at the July 16 meeting. Jager said that is where the miscommunication might have occurred. He said Newman made a comment that made it seem the council had private discussions about the decision to remove Stillman.

"I don't want to speak for Councilman Newman, but I think he was caught off guard when he was initially asked about this and he was thinking about a discussion in open session that we had about the east-west rail feasibility study where everybody expressed their opinions about the rail issue," Jager said.

Newman declined to comment on the matter and calls to Preston went unanswered.