Category: Open Government
The following is the statement made by Teresa Barth at last night's council meeting:
Mayor, council members, members of the public and media.
I requested this discussion because I believe that the city’s policy of noticing Closed Session meetings as Special Meetings with only 24-hour prior notice runs counter to the spirit and intent of the Ralph M. Brown Act and Proposition 59.
The Brown Act was adopted in 1953. The key aspect of the law is that “All meetings will be open and public except when the Brown Act authorizes otherwise.” Those exceptions are limited to Personnel Issues, Litigation, Real Estate Negotiations, Labor Negotiations and Public Security. These are the only issues that maybe discussed in a Closed Session.
Closed Sessions are not meetings onto themselves but can be a part of a Regular or Special meeting.
Under the Brown Act Regular Meetings are defined as meetings occurring at the dates, times, and location set by resolution, ordinance or other formal action by the legislative body and are subject to 72-hour posting requirements.
At a special City Council meeting, Councilmember Teresa Barth moved to review the use of ordinary, closed, and special meetings in order to bring City practices in line with the 1953 Brown Act, and 2004 Prop 59 (“Transparency in Government”). At issue was the blatant overuse of “special” meetings by the City, labeling closed sessions as “special,” thus requiring only 24-hour noticing instead of the normal 72. Barth’s cogent, well-argued proposal was supported by Maggie Houlihan, but opposed by the three Council-men block, based largely on specious arguments and misrepresentations of the motion. The unintended, yet unavoidable impression left on the audience was that the majority prefers to continue dealing with various aspects of City governance without uncomfortable public scrutiny, for reasons we do not know…or do we? Placing this important item late on the agenda “because of lack of public interest in this narrow issue,” only fueled such suspicions. The amusing albeit inglorious bafflement of one councilman, when asked whether he had read the Brown act, did little to lighten the mood. Shame on them! Teresa Barth courageously took on City Hall, and lost. The rest of us citizens lost too!
NCT Encinitas to debate closed-session noticing. The next chapter of the City Council's debate on government transparency is scheduled to unfold at Wednesday's meeting.
For months, Councilwoman Teresa Barth has alleged that the city is violating state law in the way it advertises its closed-session meetings. At least one of her colleagues disagrees and has said he has legal opinions to back him up.
The City Council is set to discuss the matter, and whether to release those legal opinions, when it meets Wednesday...
Deputy Mayor Jerome Stocks said last month that he had documents, including a state Attorney General's opinion, that show the city is in the right. In addition, City Attorney Glenn Sabine has drafted a memo on the matter...
Frustrated that Encinitas City Council's closed sessions are not transparent enough, Councilwoman Teresa Barth abstained from Wednesday night's closed session in protest...
Barth said Wednesday night she will not attend any more closed-session meetings until the city switches its 24-hour notification policy for closed-session agendas to 72-hour notification. She said she wants citizens to have time to prepare to testify before the council begins discussions...
Barth's action was consistent with her campaign promise when she ran for office last year. She had said she would try to make city government more transparent...
Encinitas resident Russell Marr, who has been pressuring the council to give more notice on closed-session agenda items and disclose closed-session votes, said the council is violating the Brown Act.
“I told you 10 times about 72-hour notice. It's time you wake up,” he said.