LA County District Attorney George Gascon acquits city of Brown Act complaints

Redondo Beach Police

by Garth Meyer

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon has exonerated the City of Redondo Beach from complaints that it violated the Brown Act in two instances this summer, though telling the city it violated the “spirit” of the public meetings law.

In a letter dated Sept. 8, Gascon referred to meetings which included the appointment of a new mayor pro-tem and the setting of a Special Election for Oct. 19.

“Although it is arguable, we do not find that the actions at issue here necessarily constituted a violation of the Brown Act,” Gascon wrote. 

The Brown Act states that a city council needs to adequately inform the public of potential action to be taken at a council meeting. This is done by posted agendas.

“We take this very seriously and would take actions to correct any violations,” said Mayor Bill Brand. “Fortunately, while a close call, the District Attorney found our actions in this case did not constitute a violation of the Brown Act.”

“(The district attorney’s office) basically fired a warning shot at the council,” said City Councilman Christian Horvath. 

The first claim of a violation occurred June 21 when the Redondo city council agenda stated an item to “adopt by resolution” Laura Emdee as the next Mayor Pro-Tem. (Her name was next in an established rotation). Instead, the council took nominations for the post and appointed Nehrenheim.

Next, the July 19 agenda told of setting an election on Nov. 8 for the potential recall of District Four Councilman Zein Obagi, Jr., after the required threshold of signatures was reached.

Instead, at the meeting, council members and Mayor Brand put forth a plan for a Special Election on Oct. 19 for a public retail cannabis initiative, which had been slated for March 2023, pairing it with the Obagi recall vote.

City Attorney Mike Webb warned the council that the move was not properly agendized, and thus a likely Brown Act violation.

By law, a recall vote cannot have its own special election.

“While the Brown Act does not limit the City Council to adopt or reject a resolution based on the version appearing on an agenda, the City Council’s actions undermined the spirit of the Brown Act and the aim to give clear notice to members of the public,” Gascon wrote. “We urge you to take greater caution in the future.”

The Brown Act’s call for description of an item is to”generally need not exceed 20 words” – for “fair notice of the essential nature of what an agency will consider.” ER


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