California open government roundup: Concerns over undisclosed deliberations by elected officials

A citizen noted that the entire Salinas City Council convened after a council meeting in a conference room for a late pizza dinner. The city attorney claimed that it was a social gathering, but the citizen noted that under the state’s open meeting law, the Brown Act, any meeting of the council must be placed on the agenda. (The Californian, July 3, 2015, by Wes White)

The Rancho Mirage city council has been accused of conducting business by e-mail in debating the feasibility of building a $100 million multi-use path. The mayor was concerned with the costs of maintaining the path. Open government critics point out that all deliberations on the path should be in public particularly since the e-mails had been sent to a majority of the council. (The Desert Sun, July 6, 2015, by Jesse Marx)

An investigation by the city attorney determined that three Livermore City council members had not violated the Brown Act in sending e-mails to each over an expansion of an off-highway vehicle park. (The Independent, July 9, 2015)

The Alameda County Grand Jury found fault with the Zone 7 Water Agency for not making all its actions fully transparent in approving $18.6 million for the purchase of watershed land. The agency failed to report after closed sessions on the issue and not providing enough time for public comment before taking action. (The Independent, July 9, 2015)

Writing in the Oakdale Leader, July 10, 2015, Richard Paloma noted that business improvement districts promoting small businesses called BID were subject to the Brown Act but that in Oakdale, the BID was meeting without notice and without posting an agenda.

Although admitting Brown Act violations, the San Jose city attorney said the council did so unintentionally. When council members realized they had unreported discussions about rent control, taxicab regulations and a state minimum-wage bill, they admitted the lapses. Given previous lapses, critics are saying the continued miscues compromise public trust. (San Jose Mercury News, July 13, 2015, by Ramona Giwargis)

The Southern Marin Fire district admitted they may not have provided adequate public notice in making decisions on pensions but said it “wasn’t on purpose.” The response came after the Marin County Grand Jury reported the district did not provide adequate public notice and disclosure in making pension decisions in 2001, 2005 and 2006. (Marin Independent Journal, July 10, 2015, by Adrian Rodriguez)