Greater Taft Economic Development Authority appointees worked under different sets of rules

A joint Kern County-City of Taft committee established to boost economic growth and development programs on the West Side has been suspended while the County and City meet and draft rules to make sure it is operated legally and clear up confusion about who is actually seated on it.

The Greater Taft Economic Development Authority, first established in 1998 through a joint powers agreement, was dormant for years, then reactivated in 2012.

It includes five members ― two appointed by the Mayor of Taft, two appointed by the Kern County supervisor representing the Taft area and one at-large public member appointed by a majority of the appointed Board.

The committee was involved in several projects since then, but has been inactive for some time.

Questions arose about how it operates and if it is complying with California Open Meeting laws and California Fair Political Practices Commission rules, and the recent appointment of two members by Supervisor Zack Scrivener raised another question.

Taft Mayor Dave Noerr said he suspended the Greater Taft Economic Development Authority recently by withdrawing the two city appointments.

With the at-large seat vacant, that left the GTEDA without a quorum and unable to take action.

Noerr said he took the action "in the best interest of the City of Taft and the people of Taft."

Scrivner and Noerr discussed the problem at length and Scrivner agreed with Noerr ― there are some real issues that the City and County have to reach agreement on.

"He and I are in full agreement with what I did and why I took the steps I did and what it's going to take to set things right," Noerr said. "We all agree we have a very real problem."

Scrivner agreed and said there are "some issues we need to clean up."

One is whether the GTEDA Board is subject to the Brown Act and California Fair Political Practices Commission regulations, including financial disclosures by Board members and whether or not members have to be sworn into office.

The City contends the GTDA is subject to the laws and members must take an oath of office.

The County apparently does not.

The GTEDA page on the Kern County website says "No Oath or Statement of Economic Interests (Form 700) Required."

Form 7000 is the FPPC Statement of Economic interest form that "every elected official and public employee who makes or influences governmental decisions is required to submit," according to the FPPC website.

"So you have two appointees by the City and two appointees by the County playing by different rules," City Manager Craig Jones said.

Further complicating the issue are two appointments Scrivner made to the GTEDA Board in September.

Mike Long and Les Clark Jr. were named to the Board, but there was no notice that the two original appointees to the Board, Bob Leikam and Ron Orrin, were notified.

Long had been the at-large member of the Board for several years after its reactivation in 2012, but had resigned.

Complicating it even more is the question about the Brown Act requiring public notices that applicants are being sought before appointments can be made.

Noerr said the Taft City attorney says the GTDA Board is subject to the Brown Act.

Whether the appointments of Long and Clark to the Board will stand is up in the air.

When asked if he was going to follow Noerr and suspend the County appointments, Scrivner said he has not made any decisions.