LANCASTER – By not announcing which lawsuits are being discussed in closed sessions, taking action on items not on the agenda, and convening council meetings without a quorum, the Lancaster City Council is flagrantly violating California’s open meeting law, alleges a complaint filed against the City of Lancaster this week.
The complaint, which claims multiple violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act took place during the last three council meetings alone, was filed by long-time council critic Scott Pelka.
“Frankly I’m tired of the city doing this stuff and doing it illegally” said Pelka, a resident of Lancaster for about 11 years. “They don’t care about following the rules, they never have.”
Pelka said he filed the complaint Tuesday with the city of Lancaster, and copied all council members, city manager Mark Bozigian, city attorney David McEwen, L.A. District Attorney Steve Cooley, and state attorney general Kamala Harris.
The complaint claims 11 violations of the Brown Act took place at council meetings between Feb. 28 and March 27. It lists the date and cites each provision of the law believed to have been violated on that date.
Among the violations, the complaint alleges:
- At a Feb. 28 meeting (and every council meeting since) the council did not announce nor disclose which lawsuits would be discussed in closed session, violating section 54957.7(a) of the Brown Act.
- At a March 13 meeting, the council took action on an item not on the agenda when council members appointing Kit Yee Szeto to the Lancaster Housing Authority, violating section 54954.2(a)(1). “Further, it is believed that the appointment of Kit Yee Szeto would constitute a clear conflict of interest as she is employed by the Mayor, and represents his personal interests, not those of the citizens of the city of Lancaster,” the complaint states.
- At a March 27 meeting, a council meeting was called to order with only one council member in attendance, violating section 54952.2(a) of the Brown Act. Additionally, the meeting began 90 minutes after the posted and legally noticed starting time, violating section 54954(a), according to the complaint.
View the entire complaint here.
The complaint demands that those portions of city council meetings proven to have violated the Brown Act be declared null and void.
“In the case of the last meeting [3/27] where they opened the meeting without a quorum and then put the meeting in recess… that entire meeting should be null and void,” Pelka said.
His complaint also calls for a complete investigation into all public meetings conducted by the current city council to determine if any other violations of the Brown Act or violations of citizens’ civil rights have taken place.
“If these violations took place in the last three weeks, how many times have they done this in the last four years?” Pelka said.
Reached Wednesday, City Manager Mark Bozigian said he was aware of the complaint. Shortly after, the city released a response to the complaint which read:
“All City of Lancaster public meetings are conducted in accordance with California law, including the Ralph M. Brown Act. The correspondence in question will be addressed by the City Attorney’s office.”
Pelka said he is not surprised by the city’s response, and said he would be taking his complaint a step further.
“Now it goes directly to the district attorney’s office, they’re the second people you have to go to under the Brown Act… if I don’t get resolution from the district attorney’s office then I go to the attorney general’s office,” Pelka said.
Asked what he ultimately hopes to accomplish with the complaint, Pelka said: “Transparency. There is nothing transparent about the way [the city council] conducts their meetings.”
“The Brown Act is to protect me, the private citizen, when the city government breaks the law by not having open honest meetings,” Pelka continued.
View past City Council meetings and agendas, from Feb. 2008 to present, here.