County Releases Most of Letter CalAware Sued for

One week after Californians Aware and the online investigative news site Voice of OC filed suit against Orange County for release of a politically controversial letter, the county on Friday released a redacted version to local media generally. But, as noted in the report by Voice of OC Editor Norberto Santana, the release will probably not halt the Public Records Act lawsuit.


Assembly Buys L.A. Supervisors' Secrecy Pretext

On a bipartisan 51-0 vote the state Assembly on Thursday passed a bill allowing local government bodies under the Brown Act to meet privately with the Governor, reports Judy Lin for the Associated Press. The bill is being carried by Republican Assemblyman Cameron Smyth of Santa Clarita as a favor to Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich.  The supervisor persuaded his colleagues to tell the county’s lobbyists to seek the legislation less than a week after Californians Aware sued the county for violation of the Brown Act on February 3. Smyth introduced an empty spot bill vehicle on the Brown Act on February 16, then amended in the current content on March 29. The county’s violations, which it recently disowned and pledged not to repeat in a settlement with CalAware, consisted of three unlawfully closed sessions last September, supposedly to address the security of public buildings and infrastructure from terrorists and other threats of disruption.  Two of the sessions involved Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., and the topic was not security but the county’s need for state help in affording the impacts of Brown’s “Realignment” of state prisoners to county jails.  A recently released tape recording of the in-person meeting shows the Governor poking fun at what he called the “Brown Act cover story” prepared by county counsel.  The bill is actually a pared-down version of Antonovich’s original idea, which included closed sessions to allow local councils and boards to huddle secretly with the President as well.  Smyth’s AB 1736 incorporates the fraudulent pretext  for secrecy fronting last September’s meetings by declaring that despite the state constitution’s presumption that government meetings are public,

Without some freedom to protect sensitive information, security is compromised. Therefore, the health and safety of the people of California is enhanced by giving governing bodies the authority to meet with the Governor in closed meetings to discuss security matters that may include sensitive information.

Here are transcripts of the three illegally secret discussions, released on CalAware’s demand, providing some notion of what kind of “security matters that may include sensitive information” we can expect to see discussed by governors and local officials behind closed doors if this bill passes.

September 20 preliminary closed session about concerns with implementing the Realignment.

September 21 phone conference closed session with Governor Brown.

September 26 closed session face-to-face meeting with Governor Brown.


Some Jealous, Wary of Officials' Use of E-tools in Meetings

As screens and keyboards increasingly show up under the noses of officials conducting open meetings throughout the state, audience reactions range from resentment at the perceived discourtesy shown the public in attendance to downright distrust of members suspected of messaging one another to hold secret meetings in plain sight, or taking off-the record testimony or instructions from lobbyists or others in the audience or miles away.  Recent reports by Lori Carter for the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat and Nick Gerda for the Voice of OC provide examples.   Continue reading

CalAware's Suit Prompts Board to Seek Brown Act Cover

Only days after Californians Aware filed a court action challenging the lawfulness of the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors’ two nonpublic meetings with Governor Jerry Brown last fall, the Board today directed staff to seek a Brown Act amendment from the Legislature allowing local bodies to hold private meetings with governors—and with U.S. Presidents as well. Ari Bloomekatz reports the lawsuit filing and the lobbying approval in the Los Angeles Times. Continue reading

CalAware Sues L.A. Supervisors for Brown Act Violations

Californians Aware today filed suit against the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, challenging, as violations of several provisions of the Brown Act, the Board’s use of nonpublic meetings last fall to confer with Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. concerning the financial impact on the county of the impending transfer of thousands of state prisoners to local jail custody and responsibility. Continue reading

No Freedom to Yell 'Mic check!' in a Crowded Theater?

The decision of San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis not to prosecute a quartet of Occupy hecklers at Mayor Jerry Sanders’s State of the City speech recently contrasts with Orange County D.A. Tony Rackauckas’s successful prosecution of a group of Muslim students who persistently interrupted a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. at UC Irvine two years ago. Some Muslims (and others) might assume that the disparate treatment was a matter of simple bigotry, but the more likely explanation is one of small but telling differences. Continue reading