OPEN MEETINGS — Redondo Beach Harbor Commissioner Harry Munns reports in a blog that City Attorney Mike Webb takes his job of enforcing the local government open meeting law so seriously that he recently told commissioners that if they did not correct a violation he would report them to the district attorney.
According to Webb, an item on the agenda would have placed the
commission in violation of the Brown Act. I'd tell more about the item,
but I've since learned that to do so might violate the Brown Act. So,
readers will have to take my word for it.
Webb told us that if we didn't pull the item from our agenda, he
would have an obligation to report the commission's alleged violation to
the district attorney. After which, the Redondo Beach Harbor Commission
would most likely receive a written warning from the DA to cease and
On the face of it, one would expect the city attorney to defend a
commission and its members rather than threatening to rat us out to the
DA. He was performing his duty by informing us of what he believed to be
a violation and providing us with advice on how to avoid the problem.
If the commission refused to act on that advice, he would have been
compelled to report the violation.
Laws such as the Brown Act are only as good as their enforcement, and
until 2001 Los Angeles authorities had chosen not to enforce the Brown
L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley seems intent on keeping
the heat on potential violations. "The District Attorney's office has
the authority to prosecute individual members of the legislative body
criminally and to initiate civil actions to prevent or nullify actions
taken in violation of the Brown Act," according to the web site of a
branch of his operation known as the Public Integrity Division (PID),
which aggressively pursues offenders.
The Manhattan Beach case centers around the City Council's separation
agreement with former City Manager Geoff Dolan. The suit alleges the
public was not notified of the council's intention to meet in closed
session to discuss Dolan's departure from the city and payment of nearly
$200,000 in severance.
Webb also warned the commission against any further "glib" references
to the "Brown Act Police." Although that term was used facetiously at a
previous meeting, it turns out the PID really is the Brown Act Police.