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?