Excessive secrecy is the cause for a lawsuit filed last Wednesday by the Los Angeles Times and Californians Aware, asking the superior court to declare null and void the May decision of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission to approve a long-term lease of the historic sports facility to the University of Southern California. The commissioners’ meetings to discuss and develop all aspects of the deal, from last fall until just before the final approval session, were entirely behind closed doors. The Times and CalAware argue that most of the deal points—beyond the price to be paid and how payment would be made—are issues that should have been discussed openly, and they ask the court to order the process to be voided as unlawful, and to be open to the public if attempted again. The Times repeatedly called attention to the secrecy since last year, and CalAware warned about the Brown Act issue in March of this year. The lawsuit, including a copy of the court petition, is reported here.
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About the Author: Terry Francke, General Counsel
Terry Francke has a 35-year history of helping journalists, citizens and public officials understand and use their First Amendment and open government rights. With CalAware, Francke has authored comprehensive and authoritative guidebooks to California law on access to government meetings and public records and the news gathering and publication rights of journalists. Focusing on these issues in public forum law, he supervises CalAware's legislative and litigation initiatives; conducts workshops on legal compliance; helps design public records audits; supports local sunshine ordinance drafting efforts; writes CalAware Today, a blog on current developments and proposals in the law and best practices; and answers countless queries by phone and e-mail from citizens, journalists, public officials and employees, and lawyers.
Francke previously served 14 years as executive director and general counsel to the California First Amendment Coalition, after a 10-year post as legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association. He has served as an advisory panel member to the National Center on Courts and the Media; taught journalism law at the Department of Communication at Stanford University; and served as an expert contributor to the 1994 major revisions to the Ralph M. Brown Act and the 2004 ballot proposition making open government a basic right of citizens under the California Constitution.
Francke is a 1967 graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a 1979 graduate of McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific. Prior to his legal career, Francke worked as a weekly newspaper editor and in military and local government public affairs positions.