Jacobs campus. File photo: Andrew Goff.





Press release from the Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury:

The Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury has released the fourth report of their 2023-2024 term, entitled Eureka City Schools – Board of Trustees: Deal or No Deal.

On December 14, 2023, the five-member Eureka City Schools Board of Trustees approved a real- estate transaction exchanging property at the site of the former George C. Jacobs Junior High School for a small residential property plus a multi-million-dollar financial consideration. This report does not address whether the transaction is a good or bad idea for the district. It is about the Eureka City Schools Trustees decision-making process in this matter.

After months of protracted negotiations, a deal between Eureka City Schools and the California Department of General Services, on behalf of the California Highway Patrol, seemed likely to conclude at a purchase price of $4 million.

On December 14, 2023, the Eureka City Schools Trustees were suddenly presented with a proposed Resolution and Agreement for a unique real-estate deal – exchanging the Jacobs property for a small residential property at 3553 I Street in Eureka plus a multi-million-dollar financial consideration – with an entity named AMG Communities-Jacobs, LLC. The proposed property exchange would bypass California Education Code requirements for the sale of exempt surplus property.

Within the span of three hours the Trustees met in closed session to discuss the real estate deal, reportedly for the first time, and then voted in open session to approve that deal. The public only had access to the details for about an hour and a half before the vote.

The Brown Act was enacted in 1953 to provide for public participation in governmental decision- making. It applies to all legislative bodies, standing committees of local government agencies, and governing bodies of non-profit corporations formed by a public agency. In essence, with few exceptions, all governmental decisions must occur in open meetings that allow meaningful public participation in the decision-making process. California residents have a right to both observe and participate in official decisions before those decisions are made.

A secretive, last-minute, quick-judgment, behind closed doors decision, in an intentionally compressed time-period, and without public knowledge, is exactly the kind of decision-making the Brown Act intended to avoid. In selling the Jacobs property, there was no effective opportunity for the public to know about, consider, and participate in an important decision regarding selling a valuable public asset, even if the result of the decision is perceived to be in the near-term best interests of students.

The Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury concludes that the Eureka City Schools Trustees acted hastily and without sufficient due diligence. While apparently literally complying with the technical requirements of the California Government Code (Brown Act) with respect to a real-estate transaction, the Trustees violated the law’s general intent for public participation and transparency in decision-making.

If you want to serve your community in a unique way that could improve local government this is your opportunity. Applications to serve on the Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury can be found at https://humboldtgov.org/510/Civil-Grand-Jury. Additional information provided by the Civil Grand Jurors Association of California can be found at https://cgja.org/.