California open government roundup: ACLU sues Orange County for curbing public access

The American Civil Liberties Union is backing a homelessness task force in filing a lawsuit that claims the Orange County Board of Supervisors is illegally restricting speech at meetings and access to public documents. The ACLU accuses the board of being the least transparent government agency in California and that their conduct during public comment sections of meetings is particularly egregious. (Los Angeles Times, April 9, 2019, by Alejandra Reyes-Velarde)

Norberto Santana Jr. of the Voice of OC, April 15, 2019, argues that the public has been excluded from negotiations between Anaheim city officials and representatives of the Los Angeles Angels baseball team over the lease of the city stadium due to expire soon. Santana points out that under the Brown Act, the only part of the negotiations that could be conducted privately is the cost of the lease and terms of payment.

Two Oroville City Council members hired a law firm in their quest to restore their committee assignments allegedly taken from them without the notice and public discussion required by the state’s open meeting law, the Brown Act. (Action News Now, April 14, 2019, by Lorraine Dechter)

Volunteer firefighters in Julian are conducting a sit-in to protest the dissolution of the volunteer fire force in violation of the Brown Act. Fifty-six percent of voters recently approved the transfer of fire fighting duties from the volunteers to the county. Lawyers for the volunteers said a San Diego Superior Court judge sided with the volunteers finding that the dissolution plan was hatched in secrecy. (Fox 5, April 10, 2019, by City News Service)

An editorial in the Daily Press, March 31, 2019, alleges that even with a new majority on the Adelanto City Council, the council is still not operating in a transparent way. The editorial says that Brown Act violations are “commonplace.” One of the chief complaints centers on the flow of money from the cannabis trade, “how it [the council] accounts for the cash or where it goes.”

The Sausalito City Council got no respect from the state Attorney General Office on their request for investigative records on the State of California’s bias case against the Sausalito Marin City School District. The state also denied a request for a public briefing. (Marin Independent Journal, March 31, 2019, by Kari Brenner)

Civility hid under the table at a March 27 special meeting over the San Bernardino city budget. Tempers flared as some worried that the 5:30 p.m. meeting discouraged public participation and others that there was a dearth of background materials to help in understanding the issues. (San Bernardino Sun, March 28, 2019, by Brian Whitehead)

To former East Palo Alto Sanitary District employees went to court over allegations that the district’s general manager destroyed board meeting recordings and violated open meeting laws. (Palo Alto Daily Post, March 20, 2019, by Emily Mibach)

An investigation of City of San Diego public records revealed that the city shelled out $576,000 over their violation of the state’s public records law since 2010. In February, the city worked with Senator Ben Hueso to weaken the California Pulbic Records Act. (NBC 7 News, March 19, 2019, by Dorian Hargrove and Jason Dorman)

Ben Poston and Maya Lau report in the Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2019, that a partnership of 33 news outlets has uncovered a number of important stories about police misconduct under the new state transparency law, Senate Bill 1421. One of the stories concerned a San Diego County sheriff’s lieutenant who embezzled over $100,00 from her church but was not prosecuted.

The City of Fremont moved quickly when they found out that the state legislators were considering a bill to open police personnel records to the public, destroying over four decades of records of internal investigations and citizen complaints. (KQED News, March 18, by Darwin BondGraham)

An audit of the City of San Diego planning groups showed that many of the groups were not transparent and did not always keep records of their operations.  (Mission Times Courier, March 12, 2019, by Scott Sherman, a San Diego council member)

A California appellate court recently ruled that the “committee exception” to the public comment requirement did not apply to special meetings. “The appellate court determined that the City could not bar Preven from speaking at the special meeting based on his prior opportunity to speak at a separate and distinct committee meeting. The Brown Act expressly requires public entities to provide the public an opportunity to speak ‘before or during’ the consideration of an item at both special and regular meetings.” (JD Supra, March 8, 20019, by Best Best & Krieger LLP)

The state legislature passed a law establishing the same transparency for charter schools that apply to other public schools. Charter school board meetings are now open to the public and records must now be made available. (Los Angeles Sentinel, March 8, 2019, by California Black Media)