Palmer to investigate City Council members for Open Meetings Act violations


    The Palmer City Council has formally requested that City Manager John Moosey launch an investigation into four City Council members who are allegedly members of a private and exclusive online group that discusses and advocates for political topics that directly pertain to the City of Palmer.

    At the Council’s last meeting on Aug. 24, allegations were made that council members Brian Daniels, Sabrena Combs, Jill Valerius and Julie Berberich (who is seeking reelection on Oct. 5) are all part of a private Facebook group called Mat-Su Moms for Social Justice. This online group advocates for far-left topics like defunding the police and critical race theory. It has also helped organize Black Lives Matter protests. According to the group’s website it shares action items, organizes phone and e-mail campaigns, plans public testimony for local meetings and helps in “social activism of all types that our group members feel passionate about.”

    If the court finds the public interest was undermined, it can void decisions approved during the violation.

    According to Alaska’s Open Meetings Act, all meetings by a governing public entity must be open to the public with reasonable notice for when the meetings occur and what will be discussed. The law requires that all deliberations and action taken by a public entity “must be done in public view” with very few and limited exceptions. A “meeting” is defined as a gathering where three or more members of a policy-making body collectively discuss a subject that the body is authorized to set policy on.

    “I asked for council support to direct the city manager to hire an independent investigator to investigate the allegations that were made at the table by members of the public,” Best said, noting that fellow Councilman Steve Carrington seconded his motion.

    “At that point all of the body had the opportunity to object, to speak to an objection and to call for a vote, and none of them opposed it so it went unanimously to be investigated,” Best explained.

    City Manager Moosey was tasked with hiring an independent private investigator.

    The public should be calling for them to immediately resign – all four members.

    Palmer City Councilman Richard Best

    Best said he has documentation and screen shots that were sent to him showing the four Councilmembers engaged in private discussions on the Mat-Su Moms for Social Justice Facebook page, which is closed to the general public.

    Mat-Su Moms for Social Justice website.

    “It shows four members of City Council participating in conversations – whether actively or passively – they are members of a closed group,” he said. “That in and of itself is against the law – participating in subjects and discussions that would come before council. Each one of those instances is against the law. It’s breaching the Open Meetings Act.”

    Those who believe the Open Meetings Act has been violated have up to 180 days to file a lawsuit if the issue is not remedied through administrative channels. There are several court cases that have ruled in favor of the Open Meetings Act. When deciding these cases, the court doesn’t just consider whether a violation has occurred, but also whether elected officials have knowingly usurped the public process. If the court finds that the public interest was substantially undermined, it can void decisions that were approved during the violation.

    Best said the investigator will advise the city what steps should be taken following the investigation of the four council members.

    “My true hope is that the public is watching,” Best said. “There is no parsing of whether this is legal or not. It’s an absolute. The public should be calling for them to immediately resign – all four members.”

    Councilman Carrington agreed that it is essential for his fellow members abide by the state’s Open Meetings Act.

    “Every time someone gets elected to the council they get a whole bunch of training about the open meetings act for the state of Alaska,” he said. “The bottom line, big deal is that we’re not supposed to be talking to a majority of the council. So, four of us can’t get together and have a discussion. It’s a big deal that we’re not supposed to do any of that.”

    Carrington said the allegations against his colleagues raises serious concerns.

    ‘I’m not a member of that (Facebook) group, but it sure smells funny,” he said. “It’s one of those rules we’re supposed to follow, and it seems like there could be a problem with that.”

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    Joel Davidson
    Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 20 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.

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    1. Just the allegation of a violation should be enough fir a step down till cleared up. I think a dismissal of those four should be immediately. I know of the training the counsel members get. I was at a Fish and Game counsel meeting when the attorney came in and gave a shorten version of the requirements of members. This is serious and need to be handled immediately and dismissal eminent.

    2. Hope this is useful to removing these snakey folk. What about the rumor that recently federal funds were used by the local city councils to purchase new Dominion machines? Is the public stuck with these? What can we do to “get our money back” and return them?

    3. Wow, my jaw just hit the floor. This is not only a serious violation of the law but to see what they were affiliated with, a socialist group. Resignations are in order and if not, a vote of no confidence and termination. Unbelievable.

    4. As Andy mentioned (above) the efforts these freedom-stealing members are allegedly involved in speak volumes. I was at the recent council meeting at which this Moms for Social Justice group called for the mayor to resign early because she declared her intent to run for MSB mayor. It was only 1 masked man who read a long letter, likely composed by the group; don’t think he was a mom, but couldn’t be sure. Our Palmer mayor, Edna DeVries, is well appreciated and loved as confirmed by the dozens who spoke in her defense that night.

    5. Well, post the screenshots with their names shown in the group pages. At that point I’d say administrative leave, voluntary resignation, or some such. If a true finding, then they’re gone and I’d hope it’s with permanent disqualification for any public office or teaching position.

    6. It is actually whatever deems a quorum for that particular body. It can be greater than three. I don’t off hand know how many council members are on Palmer’s city council but my guess is the four attending such a meeting would indeed be a quorum, hence violation of open meetings statute.

    7. These Social Justice Warrior types are nothing but Communists. They are a threat to our freedoms and values. I don’t know how these people came to have such messed up values, they must be stopped. They can move to North Korea if that fits their politics. There is no where but America for freedom lovers to go. Time to FIGHT!

    8. If the investigation ends of finding no fault, I hope that Richard Best pays the bill so that our taxes don’t go to some bullshit investigation. Really Joel do your homework every member of city council is being investigated.

    9. That is certainly would have been important information to have BEFORE open testimony at a council meeting. Had I known that they were active supporters and participants with the Mat-Su Moms, I would surely have framed my testimony differently earlier this summer when that particular group wanted to establish an “oversight” type governing body to control and make policy for our Police Department. If one feels a need to deceive others to push through a hidden agenda, more than likely their personal integrity is in question just as much if not more, as their professional honesty.

    10. Pretty sure Jaime Allard, and Lora Reinbold in the closed group “Save Anchorage”?? Maybe they should be investigated as well. Hmmm

    11. Mat-Su Mothers for Social Justice are one of many BLM affiliated communist inspired, communist front organizations that work to further the communist agenda of BLM and ANTIFA. Communist, and I am willing to bet that the majority of members have never been informed of the true nature of the actual intent of the leadership or the organizations origins. It is not surprising that Samantha Combs, Daniels, Berberich, and Valerius are involved. The have violated the law, and they have played other games with agendas to hide their intent to hold votes on issues that affect all of us who live near, do business in, and live in Palmer.
      I would hope that they are removed ASAP. They make no bones about their communist beliefs. Absolute scum. Traitors.

    12. These people are disingenuous.
      The ProgComm’s in our society are not willing to espouse, in public, their true beliefs.
      They have adopted the Fabian Socialist strategy of incrementalism – with marxist control and outcomes as their end goal.
      Mass censorship of all dissent against the politically correct narrative, erasure of gender norms, destruction of the traditional nuclear family, anthropomorphic thought embodied in animal rights and climate alarmism, voting irregularities, unlimited abortion access, and medical tyranny / discrimination are ALL part of their end game.
      Wake up sheeple – this is what TYRANNY and AUTHORITARIANISM looks like.
      Fight peacefully now – or face the possibility of being enslaved by these bolsheviks.

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