The People of the State of California long ago established the policy that our elected officials are but trusted servants who MUST do our business in public.
The Brown Act provides for narrow well-defined exceptions and establishes procedures for ensuring that what is done in “closed session” is extremely limited. The Act went so far as to abrogate the attorney client privilege in relation to the activities of covered “boards”.
It is the Council, not the City Attorney, which decides when to hold Closed Session, what to discuss in closed session, etc. The City Attorney advises only and is not always free to publicly disclose when the Council acts contrary to her/his advice.
Hercules City Councils in recent years have interpreted this law far more broadly than intended and thereby have operated, far too often, behind closed doors. This fact in no small part led to the recent Recall.
The overwhelming number of votes favoring Recall strongly suggests to me that our citizens favor the most open process available – far in excess of the minimum established by the Brown Act! That is to say that Herculeans expect that the Brown Act be followed to the letter – and beyind --regardless of how much any one or more of our City Council members wants things to no confidential.
This openness includes the behavior and decisions of the City Manager and other public officials (also trusted servants), the purchase of real estate, the sale of real estate; and other matters. The fact that the City Manager is empowered to make a given decisions does not mean that she/he can conceal the reasoning that led to those decisions.
This Council has had over nine months to establish and follow clear published guidelines conforming to the call for transparency, and has failed to do so. One of the reasons I resigned from the Citizen’s Ad Hoc Committee on Legal Affairs is that I disagreed with having that committee, as opposed to the Council, meet and publicly discuss the process of formulating such a policy. That is the Council’s job in my view and should not have been delegated.
I suggest it is time for the citizens to once again “storm the Bastille” and demand that our elected officials do the right thing.
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