Juvenile Court Opens Dependency Hearings to Media

Los Angeles Juvenile Court hearings dealing with dependent children, parental fitness and foster care are being opened to attendance by the press but not the public, unless good reason is shown why they should not be, reports Garrett Thierolf in the Los Angeles Times. The premise: a secret court system perpetuates problems in child protective services and leaves responsible adults largely unaccountable. Continue reading

Court: No Brown Act Violation by Two-Hat Council

The California Court of Appeal has declined requests to publish its recent opinion concluding that the Brown Act was not violated by the Montebello City Council in denying public comment before holding a closed session with itself as the Montebello Redevelopment Agency board, since later, before holding a closed session in its role as that board, it did allow prior public comment. If you didn’t follow that, you can read the court’s opinion and see if it’s any clearer (or any weirder), and console yourself that it looks like city councils won’t be wearing these two hats much longer. In view of that fact, it’s hard to imagine that the California Supreme Court, which still has the power to order the opinion published, will do so. Kenneth Ofgang reported the details in the Metropolitan News-Enterprise.

Court: Those Affected Can Sue to Block Forbidden Disclosures

Persons who believe that a public agency is about to release to the public information about them that the law requires to be kept confidential may sue to block the agency from doing so, the California Court of Appeal has ruled. But such a legal challenge was not able to bar a school district from releasing information to a parent the results of an investigation into charges of sexual harassment of a pupil by a teacher, the court concluded. Kenneth Ofgang reports for the Metropolitan News-Enterprise. Continue reading

"Bell" Tolls for Hard-to-Reach Meeting Agendas, Pay Talks

Thanks to the City of Bell kleptocracy scandal, local government bodies subject to the Brown Act must now post their agendas on the agency’s website, if there is one, unless they are advisory committees with no members who also sit on the governing body of the agency, and none of their members are compensated for attendance. The posting has the same advance timing as in the non-digital world: 72 hours out for regular meetings and 24 for special meetings. Also under AB 1344, effective January 1, special meetings may no longer be used for discussion or action on the compensation, including benefits, of the agency’s unrepresented (non-union) managerial talent, including both the chief executive and department heads.

CalAware Sues San Diego Supervisors for Surprise Actions

Californians Aware has filed suit against the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, challenging its decision at a meeting last month as a violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state’s open meeting law for local government.  The petition, filed today in San Diego County Superior Court, cites the Board’s immediate approval of a slate of recommendations from an advisory committee on cutting red tape in development approvals. The staff-written posted meeting agenda recommended only accepting the report and directing staff to give further study to unspecified proposals, but a staff list distributed to the Board but not the public at the meeting highlighted a number of proposals for immediate action—which the Board approved, to the surprise of both observers in the audience and others who did not attend the meeting, reading the agenda to mean no action would be taken. Continue reading

Allowing Timely Press Access to Prisoners Gets 7th Try

A proposed restoration of news media interview access to California’s state prisoners—legislation repeatedly vetoed over more than a decade by three prior governors—has passed its first two committees in the state Assembly and awaits a vote next week on the Assembly floor. AB 1270 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) was initially referred to the suspense file by the Assembly Appropriations Committee yesterday (Thursday, January 19) but later that day was approved by the committee on a straight 11-5 party line vote. The bill’s previous attempts were each passed by the Legislature but vetoed by three prior governors since the press was cut off from arranging timely interviews with inmates in the 1990s after the publication of various media stories exposing problems in prison. It would, as summarized by Legislative Counsel, “require the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, upon reasonable notice, to permit representatives of the news media to interview prisoners in person, as specified. The bill would forbid retaliation against an inmate for participating in a visit by, or communicating with, a representative of the news media.”