OROVILLE, Calif. - Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey declared that five of the seven Oroville City Councilmembers violated a state law.
The Brown Act is a law intended to give the public the right to know when local leaders meet, and why.
The group of councilmembers, excluding Scott Thompson and Mayor Linda Dahlmeier, decided last week on Oct. 12 to meet with Candace Grubbs, the County Clerk-Recorder to tell her their concerns about what seemed to be election fraud.
Two of them signed in as councilmembers, the other three, as private concerned citizens.
Nonetheless, when the district attorney began to investigate the matter of possible fraud, he also found another big problem.
"It appears to be a violation of the Brown Act in which there was a meeting that wasn't agendized in which five members of the seven-member city council appeared at without public knowledge as it were," Ramsey said. "The folks had indicated, the council members that were here tonight, had indicated that it was inadvertent on their part. They didn't intend for it to be a meeting. The Brown Act sees it differently."
The violation does not mean that these five city leaders had bad intentions. It's all about keeping the public in the loop and having all members of the council on board with what's going on in the city.
The D.A. made it clear that another violation of the Brown Act would result in misdemeanor charges for the offending council members.
So why was it so important for them to meet like this?
Last week, some city leaders got word that mail-in ballots were being delivered to a storage facility in Oroville.
They're supposed to go to homes, not businesses.
So, the fear was that non-residents were using business addresses in-city so they could vote in the upcoming election.
Grubbs says it's actually come up a lot, where city business owners want to use their own store addresses to vote, feeling like they have a big stake in what happens - especially with marijuana dispensaries on the ballot next month.
But so far in the investigation, it looks like at least some of the 12 voters in question were actually homeless people using the storage unit to get the mail.
"From our records, many of them have not even voted they had registered and not voted so, and some have, I understand in Oroville that they're afraid that people that live outside the city are trying to register inside the city we did not find that," said Grubbs.
Ramsey explained that as long as a homeless person tells the county the place where they stay - for example, at a certain park- they can specify a business as a place to get mail - including mail-in ballots.
However, Ramsey hasn't cleared all of the claims yet, so the investigation into voter fraud is on-going.
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