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Goleta Council Approves Park Purchase After Councilman Easton Admits Violating Brown Act

Members also vote to hire a consultant to evaluate the city's law enforcement needs

The Goleta City Council voted Tuesday night to purchase park property after Councilman Ed Easton violated the Brown Act.

Easton sent an email to 32 people, including the personal accounts of Goleta Mayor Margaret Connell and Council members Roger Aceves and Paula Perotte, urging recipients to support purchasing land at the Kellogg and Hollister avenues intersection area to develop into a park.

The Brown Act has strict rules about public meetings and prohibits council members from discussing public meeting information with two or more colleagues outside the public eye — even with email.

“I had forgotten that there were three members on the list,” Easton said.

City Attorney Tim Giles said the situation was cured by the public announcement and that Easton had sent a separate email after he realized his error that admitted his mistake and warned the recipients not to be influenced by his email.

Easton had urged them to come to the meeting since he had learned there could be opposition.

“A strong showing will put an end to that,” the email said. “Old Town needs a place for kids to fly kites, play soccer, basketball and softball, and for their parents to picnic under tall trees,” he wrote. “This park is big enough for all of that.”

The three council members said the email hadn’t affected their vote, which supported the purchase 3-1, with Aceves dissenting and Easton recusing himself since his home is within 500 feet of the park.

The $2.625 million purchase doesn’t include the cost to develop a park, which could be another $2 million to $3 million, and Aceves said the city can’t afford to move forward right now.

“I think we’ll see this as vacant land for quite a while because we won’t have the money to construct on it,” he said.

There were also concerns about having the Redevelopment Agency involved, since its future existence is uncertain. The council approved using $1.875 million in park development fees and $1.2 million of redevelopment funds to purchase the land and begin development.

Later in Tuesday evening’s session, the City Council approved a $40,000 contract with Matrix Consulting Group to examine its law enforcement service needs. The city’s five-year contract with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department expires and the city wants to have the consultants analyze increasing costs and the city’s service demands.

Goleta spent $6.367 million for law enforcement in 2010-11, which is 42.4 percent of the general fund.

The study will analyze the current contract as well as the feasibility of establishing a city police department or contracting with another law enforcement contract provider. In the adopted budget, the contract cost will increase $787,000 even with the loss of two deputy positions.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Noozhawk contributing writer Sonia Fernandez contributed to this report.Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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