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Letter at core of Brown Act allegations against county supervisors called a ‘fraud’

Residents make public comments before the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors in 2016. The board is scheduled to review the allegation that a majority of supervisors violated the Ralph M. Brown Act.
Residents make public comments before the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors in 2016. The board is scheduled to review the allegation that a majority of supervisors violated the Ralph M. Brown Act. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The lone piece of evidence behind accusations that three San Luis Obispo County supervisors broke state law by holding a series of private meetings is an altered letter to a rodeo producer in Colorado that the purported writer said was fraudulent.

“This letter is fraud,” Creston resident Greg Grewal said in a March 22 voicemail message to county Counsel Rita Neal, who gave a copy to The Tribune. “My name has been moved. I never wrote this letter, I never signed this letter.”

Fraud or not, the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday is scheduled to review the allegation that a majority of supervisors violated the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state law guaranteeing the public access to local government meetings. The board can decide to refer the allegations to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office, hire an outside investigator or take no action.

Grewal, a member of the county Water Resources Advisory Committee, told The Tribune that he told his daughter what to put into a letter — that she then typed and he signed — to Mike Cervi, a Greeley, Colorado, resident. However, that wasn’t the exact letter provided to the county as evidence that supervisors had discussed county business outside a board meeting, he said. The letter he wrote to Cervi was signed by three people, but the letter given to the county had only Grewal’s signature. Grewal said the content of the letter was the same, but that some paragraphs seem to have been moved.

“I signed a letter. Not the letter that they put in the complaint. (The county) has a copy of a copy of something that I didn’t write,” he said.

I signed a letter. Not the letter that they put in the complaint. (The county) has a copy of a copy of something that I didn’t write.

Greg Grewal, a member of the

Allegations of a Brown Act violation emerged after a March 7 Board of Supervisors’ meeting in which supervisors Debbie Arnold, Lynn Compton and John Peschong voted to change the county’s strategy for implementing state groundwater legislation.

Two weeks later, supervisors voted unanimously to discuss an allegation of a Brown Act violation, after Paso Robles resident Laurie Gage wrote to the county attorney accusing the three supervisors of breaking the law. As evidence, she submitted a letter from Grewal to a landowner about plans for a proposed groundwater management agency in the Paso Robles basin.

The letter says, “After various conversations with the current BOS supervisors (confidentially) they are going to declare the county the [groundwater agency] … This action is to happen in the immediate future.”

Gage said the letter provided circumstantial evidence that the three supervisors had violated the law by discussing county business out of view of the public.

“I find it concerning that (Grewal) asserts knowledge that the county is going to declare to be the (groundwater agency) and that it will happen soon,” Gage wrote to Neal. Gage declined to say who provided her with the letter and said that she did not alter it.

Grewal, Arnold and Compton have all denied the accusation, and an investigation by The Tribune found no evidence that a serial meeting occurred.

Grewal told The Tribune on March 17 that his daughter typed the letter to Cervi, the owner of a 21,000-acre ranch in the Shandon area, which discouraged the rodeo producer from joining a proposed San Jose-Shandon Water District.

“I signed it. I didn’t write it,” Grewal told The Tribune. “I told my daughter the information that should be in the letter. I didn’t personally write the letter.”

“The question to me is, how did a private letter in Colorado get in the hands of Laurie Gage?” Grewal said.

When Grewal learned the county had the letter, he called and left the message that the letter was a fraud.

“I downloaded a complaint by a person claiming that I wrote a letter, Ms. Laurie Gage. And this letter is fraud,” Grewal said in a March 22 voice message to Neal. “My next step will be, most likely, to call Dan Dow’s office, the district attorney, to file charges against the people that are trying to harm me, and my family and others.”

Monica Vaughan: 805-781-7930, @MonicaLVaughan

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