NCTD leaders warn Del Mar councilman over emails that are ‘not in compliance’ of transparency law


North County Transit District leaders sent a warning letter to Del Mar City Councilman Dan Quirk over emails he sent to NCTD board members that were allegedly “not in compliance” of a state transparency law.

Del Mar City Councilman Dan Quirk

Quirk, in his first year on the City Council, represents Del Mar on the NCTD board of directors.

On Sept. 14, Quirk sent two emails to the nine other NCTD board members about two agenda items for the board’s Sept. 16 meeting.

One email was about a contract with Deloitte Research for “market research and analysis of post-COVID-19 trends.” Quirk wrote that the study should focus in part on ridership trends of the Coaster, which runs from Oceanside to downtown San Diego. He has called the Coaster “a complete failure of a transportation service” based on the ridership numbers.

“There are good reasons to suspect that future ridership trends for the Coaster will remain very limited,” Quirk said in the email.

The second email was about an Uber and Lyft pilot program to serve the Sorrento Valley and Carlsbad Poinsettia Coaster stations and the Vista Transit Center. Quirk wrote that he was concerned the proposal would be “an additional subsidy for high income earners.”

“In theory, this idea has some potential,” he wrote. “However, it appears that for the Coaster Carlsbad and Coaster Sorrento Valley pilots, this caters to the ‘tech worker’ demographic who tends to be on the more affluent end of the income spectrum.”

The NCTD board unanimously approved both agenda items. (Quirk was absent from the meeting, but Del Mar Mayor Terry Gaasterland attended in his place.)

Two days after Quirk sent those emails, he received a letter from Encinitas Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz, the NCTD board chair, and Solana Beach City Councilwoman Jewel Edson, the vice chair. It said his emails did not comply with the Brown Act, a state law that limits meetings and communication among members of the same government body outside of a publicly noticed meeting.

“We are aware that you have been advised on a number of occasions that the Brown Act prohibits Board members from engaging in any form of communication amongst one another outside of a duly noticed public meeting that leads to a majority developing a concurrence on an action to be taken,” Kranz and Edson wrote to Quirk.

They also wrote that any future Brown Act violations by Quirk will be reported to the state attorney general and the Fair Political Practices Commission. Consequences of Brown Act violations, they said, could include NCTD board decisions being voided or NCTD incurring legal costs.

Quirk said in an interview that he was trying to raise counterpoints for board members to consider before the meeting, and that he didn’t think the emails violated the Brown Act. He added that he had no intention of causing a “secret decision behind closed doors” that would violate the law.

“It doesn’t seem fair to me if my only opportunity to raise some concerns to my fellow board members is just a verbal comment after the initial staff presentation,” he said. “It’s such an uphill battle trying to change someone’s mind when they’ve had the opportunity to receive these written materials ahead of time.”

But Kranz said he had been advised by legal counsel for the city of Encinitas and NCTD that any email to all board members “advocating for a particular position is inappropriate.” He also said there had been previous warnings to Quirk about sending emails to the whole board.

“It just makes the business of government agencies more complicated if people aren’t avoiding those situations that can trigger Brown Act violations, like emails to everybody on the board,” Kranz said.