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Why can’t Santa Ana Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez follow the Brown Act?

Claudia Alvarez

At the April 5, 2010 meeting of the Santa Ana City Council, Mayor Miguel Pulido missed the meeting. The gavel fell into the hands of Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez. Not only did Alvarez fail to follow the Brown Act as it relates to public testimony, she also applied her rules arbitrarily on some speakers and not others.

The Brown Act is California’s open meetings law. It applies to local government entities such as city councils. While there are some grey areas, there are some aspects of the law that are pretty simple to follow.

In layman’s terms, members of the public must be provided the opportunity to address the government body on “any item of interest to the public, before or during the legislative body’s consideration of the item, that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body.”

The legislative body “may adopt reasonable regulations to ensure that the intent,” of the above section, “is carried out, including limiting the total amount of time allocated for public testimony on particular issues and for each individual speaker.” The intent of the regulation is NOT to prevent the public from addressing the legislative body on all matters being considered at the particular meeting. Limiting testimony to three minutes total for any and all public comment other than public hearing testimony has the effect, as demonstrated in the video below, of preventing members of the public from addressing the city council an matters under consideration in that meeting.

Finally, the Brown Act makes it clear that the local agency “shall not prohibit public criticism of the policies, procedures, programs, or services of the agency, or the acts or omissions of the legislative body.” An action taken, or statement made, by an elected member of the agency in their official capacity, is an act of the legislative body. Criticism cannot be silenced in this context.

What is so hard about allowing the public to comment at City Council meetings? Why is Councilwoman Alvarez so thin skinned that she cannot listen to comments from the public that cite her actions and those of other council members by name from public record?

Why can’t a Deputy District Attorney, and officer of the court, follow the law?



  1. Repulsed Repulsed April 13, 2010

    I watched that meeting, and was appalled. My question is, where do we go from here. Who can we go to, who listens to the complaint, who is on the side of the public. Is this a case of we the people being forced to hire a lawyer, is there any other recourse.

  2. Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski April 13, 2010

    Call the ACLU; the First Amendment trumps any ethics ordinance the SA City Council might have. And this woman wants higher office or a judgeship?

  3. Mike Tardif Mike Tardif April 13, 2010

    As indicated by this example, the Santa Ana City Council is in consistent violation of both the spirit and letter of Brown Act requirements.

    Placing public comments (on agenda items) before the business portion of the council meeting is designed to discourage public participation. It tends to disconnect public comments from a particular agenda item. Council’s consideration of an agenda item has come up to 45 minutes after the public has made comments on the item. This situation does not facilitate a coherent consideration of public input.

    However, this disconnect does give councilmembers the benefit of additional time to fabricate their non-responsive, dismissive and fantastically convoluted explanations of their positions on agenda items.

    I believe that an argument can be made that combining and constraining Public Comments to a single session on a body of agenda items is in direct violation of the Brown Act. As you said, “… members of the public must be provided the opportunity to address the government body on “any item of interest to the public, before or during the legislative body’s consideration of the item, …”.

    The Brown Act refers to “the item” – not “the body of agenda items.” If the Santa Ana is not in violation of the letter of the Brown Act; they are certainly in violation of the facilitation of public input and discourse during a City Council meeting.

    This is just another slap in the face to the residents of the City of Santa by this renegade City Council.

  4. James James April 14, 2010

    Claudia Alvarez is beyond disgusting and a disgrace to Democrats and Santa Ana residents alike. What will she do next? Purchase domain names for Al Amezcua and redirect them to NAMBLA? I wouldn’t be surprised.

  5. junior junior April 14, 2010

    You may not agree with Lupe, but Councilmember Alvarez has no right to treat her in this mean-spirited, disrespectful and dishonest manner.

    Claudia Alvarez is the “Queen of Mean” for Santa Ana.

  6. Mike Tardif Mike Tardif April 14, 2010

    Let’s play – “How violations of the phony and fraudulent Santa Ana Code of Ethics can you identify in the conduct of Claudia Alvarez?” I’ll cherry pick the easiest violation –

    From the Santa Ana Code of Ethics:
    I treat my fellow officials, staff and the public with patience, courtesy and civility, even when we disagree on what is best for the community.

    Ok – I took the easiest violation to spot. No worries – there are plenty of violations left to identify based on Ms. Alvarez’ nasty behavior.

  7. Advantage Title Flunky Advantage Title Flunky April 15, 2010

    Stop picking on Clowni, er, Claudia.

  8. […] minutes to an hour, the Council should take up  comments from the public. As has been pointed out here and here before, the city seems to have a rather restrictive view of how, when, and how long, they […]

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