A&A: City Council Action in Secret

Q: Our city’s fire chief is on medical leave.  I heard the city council approved a search for an interim fire chief several weeks ago, but it was not disclosed to our paper. Is it legal for the city council to approve a search without notifying the public?

A: Under the Brown Act, a city council is not supposed to take any action in secret, except where the matter can be discussed in closed session, and even then the council is required to disclose any action taken in closed session.  See generally Gov’t Code section 54953(c) and 54957.1.

Consequently, if a vote of the council was required to approve the search for the interim chief, that should have been publicly disclosed. It doesn’t necessarily have to be disclosed to the Times, but should have been disclosed in a public meeting of the council.  Also, the matter should have been noticed on the agenda for a public meeting, even if the matter was discussed in closed session (and it is not clear that it would have been proper for the council to discuss the interim search in closed session, even if it followed a discussion of personnel matters involving the chief who is on leave that might have been closed under section 54957).