Public Forum Law Week in Review: 6/20/08
Open Government

Vote on Sunshine Panel Member Surprises
The San Francisco Bay Guardian reports that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, by a 9-1 vote appointed to a vacancy on the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force a favorite of the Board chairman with little open government experience or interest, instead of its own Rules Committee’s recommended candidate, “an attorney with experience using the Sunshine Ordinance and who other task force members had looked forward to working with.”

Board Twice Faulted for Sunshine Shortfalls
According to reports in the Tri-Valley Herald in Pleasanton and the Stockton Record, respectively, trustees of San Joaquin Delta College have been separately faulted for disregard of the open meeting laws by a grand jury report suggesting that a leak by one or more trustees to a favored developer concerning pending litigation issues discussed in closed session was a violation of the Brown Act, and a preliminary accreditation report by a team from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. That document was said to include concern for ethics and open government lapses over the past seven years, including the recent extension of President Raul Rodriguez's contract though a series of illegal one-on-one meetings.  Rodriguez has refused to release the accreditation report.

Watchdog: Housing Process Rebuffs Public
An activist concerned with growth standards in Los Angeles laments, in CityWatchLA, the formidable barriers to effective citizen participation erected by city staff in its meetings, hearings and public records practices.

Free Speech

CalTrans Freezes Highway Sponsor Program
The North County Times reports that the California Department of Transportation has suspended its Adopt-A-Highway cleanup program at a time when the San Diego Minutemen, a controversial, anti-illegal-immigration group from North County, is waging a public battle over its right to participate.

Recall Signature Gathering Blocked at Store
The LA Chronicle website reports that the Raleys grocery market chain has obtained a 30-day temporary restraining order prohibiting signature gathering  near the entrances of its Suisun City store by a group seeking recall of the mayor and two city council members.

Open Meetings

Council Renounces E-Messaging while Meeting
The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reports that City Council members are shutting themselves off from the text and e-mail worlds while they’re together officially, having adopted a ban on sending, receiving and reading electronically produced messages during their weekly meetings.

Brown Act Reform Bill Headed to Governor
SB 1732, a measure designed to restrain local government bodies’ maneuvers to reach decisions outside of public meetings, is poised to go to Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk after overwhelming, bipartisan approval in both the Senate  and Assembly. As explained by a committee consultant, the bill forbids a majority of the members of a city council, board of supervisors or other local legislative body from using a series of communications of any kind, directly or through intermediaries, to discuss, deliberate or take action  on any item of business that Brown requires to be dealt with in public.  But it allows agency staff to brief members in “separate conversations or communications” on any matter so long as the members do not use these contacts to violate that ban by interacting with one another using staff as intermediaries.

Paper Balloting Raises Brown Act Issue
The Monterey County Herald reports that directors of the Monterey Peninsula Airport District trimmed the list of applicants for a vacant board seat to three people by individually reviewing the eight applications and submitting each director’s top three picks to the board secretary, who used those rankings to select the finalists. The process was lawful so long as the records showing each director’s picks were open to the public, said one attorney.

Public Information
 

LA Water Agency CEO Won’t Tell His Usage
The LAist website reports that David Nahai, CEO and general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, is both urging the public to conserve water and power and refusing to release his own home’s usage records to a journalist he accuses of harassing him.

Editorial: Police Union Wrongly Attacks Bill
An editorial in the Los Angeles Times criticizes a radio public relations campaign by the Los Angeles Police Protective League attacking a recently amended bill by Senator Gloria Romero. SB 1019 would allow local government agencies employing or reviewing the conduct of peace officers to resume the open hearing and public records practices concerning alleged officer misconduct that they used prior to a state supreme court decision two years ago forbidding such openness. The recent amendment confines the bill to a department “operating under a federal consent decree on the basis of police misconduct as of January 1, 2008,” which uniquely refers to LAPD.

Public Records Disclosed Reveal . . .
a pattern of what appears to be extravagant spending by Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums at taxpayer expense, “even as he suggests
shutting down City Hall for a dozen days and raising taxes,” according to KTVU-TV.
that at least 14 employees in the San Diego County Clerk's Office raised religious objections to performing gay wedding ceremonies but were told by their boss they couldn't pick and choose between marriage applicants, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Open Courts

Deputies Lock Press and Public out of Court
The Sacramento Bee reports and calls for investigation of the action by Yolo County Sheriff’s deputies in locking the press and most of the public out of  the courthouse for the arraignment of a man suspected of murdering Deputy Tony Diaz on Father's Day. The slain man's family and dozens of sheriff's deputies were allowed into the courtroom through side entrances while the media and the accused man’s family were excluded