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District Attorney Responds to Alleged Brown Act Violations

While the DA's letter states there were no factual findings with regard to the alleged conduct on behalf of City Council, it does say the circumstances bring forth “a sufficiently reasonable concern.”

After almost a year, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has finally responded to the on behalf of City Council said to have taken place during the controversial selection process for

“We do not make any factual findings with regard to the alleged conduct because there is no independent source of evidence of the subject matter of the closed session discussions involved,” Assistant Head Deputy of the Public Integrity Division, Jennifer Lentz Snyder, stated in a letter (attached to your right) to South Pasadena Council members.

“However, the circumstances we reviewed provide a sufficiently reasonable concern as is explained below,” she continued.  

The District Attorney's office received a complaint in August from a South Pasadena resident, who alleged City Council violated state public meetings laws. Overall, critics of the incident questioned the "Performance Evaluation of City Manager" agenda item, particularly since it was used over and over.

In a phone conversation, Snyder told Patch, "If there was no vote taken, we can’t undo the action. If it's just a discussion, it doesn't mean there wasn't a violation; there's just nothing to undo.”

Her letter to council states that if, in fact, the Chief’s agreement was presented by the City Manager or otherwise discussed in closed session as an offshoot of “Performance Evaluation of City Manager,” council was in violation of California's Brown Act.

Nevertheless, there are other aspects of non-renewal that could lawfully be considered in closed session as long as they are accurately depicted on the agenda, Snyder explained.

In October, City Manager John Davidson he made the decision to hire Payne. He did acknowledge "there was input from the City Council." But also added: "It was left in my hands."

Snyder said the District Attorney's office will continue to track what South Pas City Council does and if it is not in compliance, further action will be taken.

Yet she also mentioned these types of incidents are rarely taken to Civil Court.

"Ninety-nine percent of the time, a letter is all it takes,” she said. “Most agencies want to comply." 

 

Patch is following up on this topic to get reactions from City officials as well as residents. 

Ron Rosen July 27, 2011 at 12:40 PM
The DA's letter confirms what many of us have known and stated all along. The Council met in closed session to discuss the performance and retention of Police Chief Watson, but called those meetings "City Manager performance reviews." This was so the Council could give directions to the City Manager behind closed doors. The removal of Watson was instigated by David Sifuentes and heartily supported by Mike Ten. It appears that Putnam and Cacciotti went along with it. The City Manager had to say that the removal of Watson was his idea because he wants to keep his job. Those of us familiar with the situation know that the City Manager did not support Watson's removal. The Council improperly used the closed-session provisions of the Brown Act to hide what it was doing. Rather than giving the Council objective advice about what was legal and proper, City Attorney Adams did the Council's bidding by advising them that they could mislabel meetings and keep improper discussions from the public. The DA's letter makes clear that a government body has no right to discuss in closed session the performance of an employee that it does not have the direct power to hire and fire. Not only did the Council improperly discuss Watson's performance in closed session, it tried to hide behind the Brown Act, the very act it was violating. Ten and Sifuentes should be removed from office at the next election.
Ron Rosen July 27, 2011 at 12:55 PM
Look for members of the Council and other city officials to discount the significance of the DA's letter, to deny that they ever made clear to the City Manager that they wanted Watson removed, and to assert that this affront to good and open government was all the CIty Manager's idea. Those of us familiar with the situation know otherwise. The Council knows otherwise. Those of us who opposed Watson's removal from the start have never been proven wrong in anything we said. We said as early as November 2009 that the Council had a plan to replace Watson with Payne. That fact was published in the press in February 2010. In September 2010, Payne was installed as police chief after 18 other candidates were passed over. The citizens of South Pasadena need to decide whether to believe a Council with a hidden agenda, or their own eyes.
sub standard Jackhole July 27, 2011 at 03:11 PM
I quess we we know who filed the complaint :-)

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