On May 14, 2018, the City of Culver City received a letter signed by eight residents, complaining of a a violation of the Brown Act in regards to the recent mayoral rotation. The controversial action by the City Council occurred on the night that the two newest council members were sworn in, and involved a reversal of a previously set policy that had received a ‘yes’ vote from all of the council members serving in 2017.
In the letter, the residents cite specific violations, “We call your attention to Section 54952.6, which defines ‘action taken’ for the purposes of the [Brown] Act expansively, i.e. as “a collective decision made by the members of a legislative body, a collective commitment or promise by the majority of members of a legislative body to make a positive or negative decision, or an actual vote by a majority of members of a legislative body when sitting as a body or entity, upon a motion, proposal, resolution, order or ordinance.”
Many residents were surprised and disappointed by the council’s decision to reverse such a recently confirmed policy on rotation, in particular when the history of the rotation had been rife with challenges. While some of the shifts in expected mayoral rotations of the past were not controversial, several were contentious, and the need for a consistent policy was what had called the 2017 council to pass the measure.
Violation of the Brown Act is a crime, and according to the Institute for Local Government, ” A knowing or willful violation of the Political Reform Act’s requirements is a misdemeanor. A person convicted of a misdemeanor under these laws may not be a candidate for elective office for four years following the conviction. Such a conviction may also create an immediate loss of office under the theory that the official violated his or her official duties, or create a basis for a grand jury to initiate proceedings for removal on the theory that failure to disclose constitutes willful or corrupt misconduct in office. Jail time is also a possibility. In addition, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) may levy fines of up to $10,000 per violation or more, depending on the circumstances.”
Assistant City Attorney Heather Baker confirmed receipt of the complaint, and noted that the city has thirty days to respond.