Closed sessions, labor negotiations, and disclosure of outcome
Q: I am a reporter and I recently covered a meeting where the City Council voted to replace the city’s police department with county Sheriff’s services. A number of opponents to this move have suggested that the Brown Act was violated when the council met in closed session to call for the Sheriff’s proposal under the heading of labor negotiations, and did not report the outcome of the closed session. The Council also added the vote to an already called special meeting the night before. It appears that there was 24 hours notice, but not all the council members may have received the notice in writing. Did the City Council violate the Brown act?
A: Your email questions whether a City Council violated the Brown Act by meeting in a closed session to discuss replacing the police department with the county sheriff’s department. Apparently the council did so under Govt. Code s. 54957.6, which governs closed sessions for labor negotiations. Based on the facts provided in your email, it is plausible that the council had to meet in a closed session to discuss the contract negotiation aspects of making the switch from the police force to the sheriff’s force. Moreover, unlike with Govt. Code s. 54957.9 (pending litigation exception), there is no obligation on the part of the council to provide additional detail on the closed session.
Your email also mentions that not all council members may have received notice of the special meeting. If that is the case, then the city may have violated Govt. Code s. 54956, which governs rules of notice for special meetings. That code section specifies that each member of the legislative body (in this case the City Council) must receive written notice of the special meeting at least 24 hours before the meeting.