California open government roundup: With COVID-19 threat governor loosens open meeting law

The coronavirus pandemic prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to suspend parts of the Brown Act, the state’s open meeting law. Local and state legislative agencies may now conduct public meeting by teleconference and make the meeting open to the public electronically. Agencies must still provide advance notice of meetings and designate at least one public location allowing the public to observe a meeting and offer comment. (JD Supra, March 13, 2020, press release)

A citizens group is suing Encinitas for its plans to establish a safe parking lot for the homeless on a parcel of land zoned agricultural. The group claims the city violated the Brown Act by not posting “any agenda related to strategies allowing residential use on an agricultural property.” (California Globe, March 11, 2020, by Michelle Mears)

A fired Idyllwild Water District general manager filed a lawsuit claiming the board violated the Brown Act while he was investigating harassment of female workers. Michael Creighton claimed that there were numerous meetings by individual board members with CFO Hosny Shouman to block the investigation. Two female employees had made verbal and written complaints against Shouman. (Idyllwild Crier, March 10, 2020, by Meliss Diaz Hernandez)

Two members of the Butte County Board of Supervisors want to remove Matthew Tennis from the Water Commission for what they say was a Brown Act violation. In a meeting with Chico Chamber of Commerce, Tennis was supposed to have voiced support a pipeline from Paradise to Chico. (Chico Enterprise-Record, March 9, 2020, by Jake Hutchison)

Anaheim residents sued the city after it approved the sale of Angel Stadium claiming that the city leaders deliberated in secret and withheld information to limit public input. (The Orange County Register, March 6, 2020, by Alicia Robinson)

The California Supreme Court will rule on whether a local group properly challenged the appointment of San Bernardino County Supervisor Dawn Rowe in 2018. The group said the supervisors violated the Brown Act during the appointment process. (Highland News, February 27, 2020, by Alejandro Cano)

During a dispute over the rotation of the mayor’s position on the Culver City Council, rather being allowed to give her own opinion, the city attorney was instructed by the city council to say there was no Brown Act violation. (Culver City Observer, February 27, 2020)

Without admitting a violation of the Brown Act, the Trinity County supervisors said it will not repeat actions involving failure to disclose deliberations on a lawsuit in closed sessions. (The Trinity Journal, February 26, 2020, by Sally Morris)

Lafayette won a case in the state appeals court filed by citizens who claimed the city violated the Brown Act in a land-use project. The court held that there were Brown Act violations in discussing the project in closed sessions but that the project could go ahead since the plaintiffs failed to show prejudice. The court also said the city council discussed the project in many public meetings “and where there is no indication of how the plaintiffs would have proceeded differently if they had known of the threat, we see no basis for inferring even the possibility of prejudice from the City’s failure to disclose in the meeting packet the applicant’s litigation threat.” (Law Business Research, February 11, 2020, by Bryan W. Wenter)

The Pacific Grove city manager may have erred in negotiating a lease for temporary library quarters. A city councilwoman complained the council and public learned about the lease terms after it was agreed upon. Others are alleging that a closed session took place without identifying ahead of time who the city was negotiating with. (Monterey Herald, February 4, 2020, by Dennis L. Taylor)

The San Juan Bautista mayior may have violated the Brown Act is appointing city council members to regional committees outside of an official meeting. (BenitoLink, February 3, 2020, by Noe Magana)