By Stephen Hadland
Observer Publisher 

Brown Act Violation?

Council Claims It's 'Not Guilty'


The City Attorney of Culver City this week addressed the controversy that was sparked at the City Council installation and the alleged Brown Act violation.

In a carefully worded statement, the city attorney issued the following: "The City Council has determined that no Brown Act violations occurred; therefore, there is no need to cure or correct its actions. "

"The Council has directed me, the City Attorney, to prepare a written response" to complainants "in accordance with such determination," he added.

The issue was addressed in closed session after City Council received a letter by eight Culver City residents contending that the Council violated the Brown Act when it held secret conversations to pass over Goran Eriksson for the succession to become mayor.

Culver City resident Jamie Wallace told the Council the decision had incurred "deep scars" in the city. But council members appeared to ignore her comments and continued with other items on the agenda.

City Attorney Carol Schwab was very careful with her remarks. She did not say whether her statement was an opinion from her office. She did not offer an independent statement on her opinion.

One city council observer commented that it was like the catching the fox in the hen with feathers in his mouth saying, "I didn't eat the chickens."

The issue began when the new City Council skipped over Councilmember Goran Eriksson for the post of Vice Mayor at its installation ceremony last month – a move that violated city council policy and drew the ire of residents. More importantly, many residents contended the vote was resolved in secret prior to the meeting and prior to the two new councilmembers taking office.

In a Facebook comment, Paul Ehrlich expressed, "The City Council is the Investigator, subject of a potential crime and unethical behavior, judge and jury with no sworn testimony or evidence presented and the City Attorney is under their direct orders. Hum...."

The Brown Act forbids members of a governing body or those elected to that body from conducting or even discussing government business prior to public meetings. It is apparent this plan was hatched between the four councilmembers prior to the installation meeting and became the "worst kept" secret in the city.

Dozens of local government agencies across Los Angeles County have silenced critics at public meetings, held secret conferences to hash out important business or taken other actions that violated the state's open meetings law, according to a Times review of the district attorney's records.

The story went on to state, "Though no one has been prosecuted, some agencies have been required to publicly reverse decisions made in secret. Several elected bodies, including the city councils of El Segundo and, more recently, Lancaster, have received repeated warnings to clean up their act."

The next step for local citizens who believe the Brown Act was violated will be to contact the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, Public Integrity Division.

The eight signatories on the complaint are all residents of Culver City. They are awaiting an official response from the city attorney's office before deciding how they will proceed.


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