Brown Act Violations Shut Down Downtown NC Meetings

DOWNTOWN- This week, the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (DLANC) had to cancel it’s monthly Board meeting after being informed of their Brown Act violations. This comes after last week’s abrupt cancellation of the DLANC Executive Committee meeting. 

What’s going on with the DLANC? 

DLANC by-laws, which were revised this summer (July 20, 2015) and also means were approved by this sitting Board, clearly states on Page 14- 

“Article VIII, Section 2- Agenda Setting- The Executive Committee shall set the agenda for each DLANC meeting at it’s monthly meeting prior to the next general DLANC Board meeting. During the seven (7) days prior to the DLANC Board meeting, EXCLUDING THE SEVENTY-TWO (72) hour period just prior to the DLANC Board meeting, the President or his/her Executive Committee Member appointee, may set or amend/change the agenda and submit it to the Secretary for posting. Any such agendized items or changes shall be SPECIALLY NOTED on the published agenda.” 

When the DLANC Executive Committee meeting was abruptly cancelled last week (of which DLANC still hasn’t publicly issued a reason why), it’s Board meeting for the month would AUTOMATICALLY also be cancelled UNLESS the President or committee appointee set the agenda 7 days prior … BUT, with the 72-hour Brown Act requirement STILL in effect, in essence this option can only take place during the four days prior to the 72-hour window. 

While many folks don’t know it, DONE (Department of Neighborhood Empowerment) has the capability of identifying EXACTLY when meeting agendas are posted ... The DLANC agenda posting missed the 72-hour requirement- a Brown Act violation.

While some DLANC Board members explained the meeting cancellation away as “a clerical mistake”, it is, however, a Brown Act violation. 

DLANC President Patti Berman was contacted by both DONE (Department of Neighborhood Empowerment) and the City Attorney’s office and made aware of the Brown Act violations and was then ADVISED to CANCEL the Board meeting. 

While the frequent misunderstanding of the “7-day posting window” has caused this very same level of Brown Act violations in the past, a grievance wasn’t pursued specifically on this until now. 

Even though DONE is severely understaffed, they took the initiative to address these issues. Ironically, DONE is currently in the process of undergoing additional training on how they handle the grievance processes citywide and will resume their department’s actions in this capacity in January, 2016 … It is not yet clear if the DLANC will be one of their first items of “grievance discussions”. 

These aren’t the only issues regarding DLANC agendas. 

Over the years, many in the Skid Row community have had tremendous issues trying to get their items of interest and/or concern onto the DLANC Board agenda. This frustration has led to the collective desire to create the Skid Row Neighborhood Council. Two weeks ago, the City Council approved the subdivision motion which puts the SRNC one step closer to becoming a reality. 

As for DLANC’s by-laws, while their old by-laws (January 26, 2014) are presently posted on the DLANC website, as previously stated in this article their new by-laws went into effect July 20, 2015. Apparently, this may have caused confusion amongst the DLANC constituents who have taken to social media to air their collective disdain over the matters of cancelled meetings, vacant Board seats and more. 

One such topic which led to unnecessarily aggressive discussions into the wee hours is in regards to the replacement of a DLANC Board member. DLANC’s new by-laws state; 

“Article V, Section 6: Vacancies, Letter D- The Board shall vote on the application at the meeting. If multiple applications for a seat have been submitted, the candidate with the most votes wins.” 

OBVIOUSLY, this would not be considered to be a vote during DLANC’s “regular election”. Therefore, it was referred to as a “special election” and some people in the Downtown area took STRONG exception to this notion … to the point where myself and others were called liars. Just because it doesn’t literally say “special election” in the DLANC by-laws doesn’t mean that that’s not what it is. 

Moving forward, upon the many changes in DLANC’s new by-laws, the number of Board member seats have been reduced from 28 to 24, including one less Social Service Provider seat. The Board seat adjustments will go into effect during the upcoming election cycle next year. 

DLANC now has a choice of either letting the “holiday season” be the reason for not having a December Board meeting or having a “special meeting”. If they have a special Board meeting in December, it will be the same as an admission of guilt regarding the Brown Act violations. 

So much for being the 2013 Empower LA award winners. 

My how the mighty have fallen!

 

(General Jeff is a homelessness activist and leader in Downtown Los Angeles.)

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 100

Pub: Dec 11, 2015