A Commitment to Transparency
In April of this year, the City Council approved the
formation of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Proposed Downtown Stadium and Event
Center. At the June so” meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee, a representative
of the Office of the City Attorney opined that ad hoc committees of this City
Council are not bound by the provisions of the Ralph M. Brown Act — the state
law that guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of
local legislative bodies. The City Attorney’s interpretation is startling. And
while some may argue it is legal for the City Council to form ad hoc committees
that have the right to waive or ignore public notice and information
requirements, doing so would break faith with a public that rightly expects and
deserves transparency in its government. THEREFORE MOVE that the CLA, in
consultation with the City Attorney, draft an amendment to City Council Rules,
requiring that all Council committees, standing and ad hoc, be required to
abide by the public notice requirements of the Brown Act.
That is the full text of a motion proposed by Bill Rosendahl and backed by Paul Krekorian and Council President Eric Garcetti that created an uproar Wednesday in the City Council.
Rosendahl was startled, as he says, to learn at last week’s meeting of Jan Perry’s committee on the stadium deal that the ad hoc committee was not required to comply with the Brown Act, the state open meeting law, so agendas did not have to be posted 72 hours in advance, the public did not have the right to speak and the committee could meet behind closed doors and talk about anything it wanted.
His motion merely required the City Attorney to draft a new Council rule requiring the stadium committee to do its business openly and honestly.
Perry was outraged by his suggestion. Tony Cardenas was insulted, eloquently talking about the council’s commitment to democratic processes that is second to none. Richard Alarcon, the accused perjurer awaiting trial, was offended that anyone could ever question his integrity.
The Council always at at all times operates totally openly and above board, making intelligent decisions in the best interest of the public and the city, they insisted. How dare Rosendahl say such things.
For more than an hour, Tom LaBonge double-talked even more incoherently than usual. Janice Hahn flip-flopped back and forth as is her wont. Ed Reyes mumbled to himself.
Back and forth, they went sounding like Abbott and Costello doing their “Who’s on first?” shtick, only it wasn’t funny. This is the costliet, riskiest and most controversial deal to come before the Council it decades and only Rosendahl has questioned what is going on, asking a hundred questions and getting a hundred non-answers.
The point of what Perry and friends was up to was to put him in his place, to let him know that he was out of line and if he knew what was good for him, he would shut his mouth. This deal is too important, too loaded with “juice” for the politicians to mess up by allowing the public to be full participants in a truly open and honest process.
As Assistant City Attorney Dion Connell noted with his Spockian dispassion: Violating the Brown Act by an ad hoc committee is legal and has no negative consequences even if it’s true the Council’s usual practice is to comply with the law. But it the Rosendahl rule were imposed on the committee, then anyone could sue if the do business in secret or exclude the public form being full and informed participants.
Finally, it came time to vote and presiding officer Dennis Zine, the traffic cop who wants to by City Controller, called for a vote but he was so confused he didn’t have clue what they were to vote on so he asked the Council’s City Clerk Alan Alietti what was before the Council.
Now Alietti is from all appearances a lot smarter and articulate than anyone who sits on the Council, an unflappable source of clarity in a muddled world of confusion and contradiction.
What followed over the next 10 minutes left him speechless. Left him stuttering and stammering. Left him flummoxed and confused. Should have left the entire City Council embarrassed and ashamed.
With Zine’s rulings as presiding officer and the Council’s proclivity for lies and deceit, the outcome was pre-determined: Rosendahl’s call for a rule requiring compliance of the Brown Act in the name of transparency was sent to a committee where LaBonge promised it will remain buried until all the back room deals are cut for the benefit of AEG and its plan to own an NFL stadium on public land and reap all the profits from naming rights, billboards and everything else and stick the public with nothing but the bills for paying off more than $750 million in borrowing.
Once again, the wolves had silenced the lambs and were ready to move for the kill.