City to Investigate Allegations of Brown Act Violation

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.

Judith Martin-Straw

 

www.culvercitysymphony.org

4 Comments

  1. It was pretty obvious that this was a foregone conclusion. One of the most widespread rumors in CC in a long time.
    There’s a lot of evidence to support the violation. And prior preparation on the topic by the council members was obvious.

  2. Perhaps it was a foregone conclusion, not because of any violation of the Brown Act, but because choosing a mayor and vice mayor whose values are aligned with the majority of the Council makes sense.

  3. Since when is the choice of mayor/vice-mayor supposed to be under the sole discretion of a “newly elected” majority? Being on the City Council, putting in hours of preparation, fieldwork, and representing the various citizens of our city is not a popularity contest. The rotation was put into place so hard working council members have the opportunity to rotate into the “higher” positions.

    There has not been any justifiable explanation for passing over Goran Eriksson who was in line for being promoted to vice mayor based upon his length of service. No one in recent city history has been denied that promotion for a first time appointment to vice mayor or mayor. Some may have consciously passed on the promotion because they felt they needed more experience, as Thomas Small did in the past.

    How is it a “forgone” conclusion that the vice mayor has to be “aligned with the majority of the Council?” By taking this action the majority of the council disenfranchised everyone who voted for Mr. Eriksson and everyone else who believed in the fair and proper rotation of council members.

    There never has been an explicit expectation that each and every council member or any council member should be appointed mayor a second time. Making this change was unjustified and I have not seen a single argument that addresses this blatant political gamesmanship.

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