A Brown Act lawsuit threat by Californians Aware against the City of Manhattan Beach, although withdrawn based on new information from City Attorney Quinn Barrow, has led to a policy of more complete disclosures on meeting agendas about what facts and circumstances have prompted the need for a closed session consultation with counsel on potential litigation.

On June 15 CalAware warned the city council it would sue unless the city remedied its failure to specify what situation triggered a closed litigation session on March 17. Barrow responded that an oral statement to a fellow worker by an employee in December credibly signaled a possible lawsuit alleging the employee was passed over for a merit raise due to unlawful discrimination. That possibility led city staff to negotiate for the employee’s departure with a satisfactory severance package.

This bargaining ended at the March 17 meeting, when the closed session on potential litigation was followed by an announcement that the city and the employee had reached an agreement under which the employee would resign and be paid six months’ salary, benefits, unused vacation time and retirement contributions totaling about $115,000. The existence of the litigation threat was not mentioned on the March 17 meeting agenda, and was revealed to Kelly Aviles, CalAware’s Vice President for Open Government Compliance and chief litigator, only after she filed the litigation warning.

In a message to Aviles sent Tuesday, Barrow said, “the Council will have a closed session tomorrow on the following items:

(Government Code Section 54957)
Title: City Manager

Government Code Sections 54956.9(d)(2) and 54956.9(d)(4)
On June 16, 2015, the State Water Board adopted a final order resolving the petition for review filed on behalf of the City challenging the 2012 Los Angeles MS4 Permit (“Permit”). The City Council will consider authorizing defending any actions brought to challenge the final order and whether to initiate litigation in connection with the final order.

“As you can see in Item 2, the City is making a special effort to provide more detailed information to the public regarding the facts and circumstances of potential litigation, due, in large part, to your input.  We will strive to provide as much information as possible in future descriptions, as well.  Thanks for your help.”