A lawyer for the Los Angeles Times has sent the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors a letter accusing members of violating the Brown Act and is requesting the supervisors turn over transcripts of two recent meetings.
The supervisors met Tuesday, May 30, in a closed session to discuss the request by the Times. The Brown Act ensures the public can watch local government meetings, and is a long-standing open-government law in California. Local agencies are not permitted to discuss certain topics, including litigation, performance evaluations of employees or union negotiations, behind closed doors.
At issue is the Board of Supervisors sessions in regard to the county’s Probation Department meetings in closed sessions on March 24 and April 18. There was a meeting after state regulators warned county officials that the state was recommending a move to shut down the county’s two juvenile halls on March 24.
“What you can’t do is use that as a guise to talk about policy-oriented decisions that the public has a right to be a part of,” said attorney Kelly Aviles, who wrote the April 21 letter on behalf of The Times.
The closed sessions in both meetings were listed as department head performance evaluations on the agendas. The Times alleges in its letter the board used the time “for a broader discussion of the Probation Department.” In the letter, the Times cites a statement from Chair Janice Hahn saying the board was trying to “figure out a path forward to keep both the young people in our halls and our staff safe and supported” during the March 24 closed session. Such a conversation would be considered a violation of the Brown Act, Aviles argued in the letter.
“Furthermore, a preemptive discussion of the state of county juvenile halls or their potential closures reaches far beyond the personnel exception,” the letter states.
A spokesperson for Hahn declined to comment, the Times reported.
The Times requested the county “to refrain from similar violations in the future,” in addition to asking for transcripts.