Last week Mayor Bob Whalen wrote a Guest Column “City Progress” noting City Council accomplishments that I basically agree with. Glaringly missing was the fact that the City Council majority, not only violated the law, but apparently have learned little or nothing from the experience.
Never before in my 36 years living in Laguna Beach has the Orange County District Attorney office written: “In response to complaints concerning possible violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act by the Laguna Beach City Council, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (“OCDA”) conducted a review of the City Council’s June 29, 2021 closed session regarding Hotel Laguna. Based on this review, there is substantial evidence that the City Council Members violated the Brown Act with respect to the public notice of the closed session and/or the scope of the matters considered during the meeting.”
The City Council discussed and voted on concurring with lifting stop work orders for Hotel Laguna permits during a Closed Session Agenda item noticed as “Anticipated Litigation”. At the November 2, 2021 city council meeting, Mayor Whalen said he “learned a lot” and “apologized to the community for the entire disruption”. But unbelievably, he said that if the item had been noticed as “Significant Exposure to Litigation” then he does not think the DA would have had any concern.
That clearly means that Mayor believes that while discussing Hotel Laguna permits during an “Anticipated Litigation” closed session noticed agenda item was unlawful, that it would be fine to discuss Hotel Laguna permits during a closed session agenda item noticed as “Significant Exposure to Litigation”.
For over two months I have been trying to get the Mayor to ask City Attorney Phil Kohn: Was Hotel Laguna litigation discussed at the June 29, 2021 City Council meeting close session? Now, in addition, I would like the City Attorney to answer: Would it be a violation of the Brown Act for the City Council to discuss Hotel Laguna permits during a closed session if the agenda item was noticed as “Significant Exposure to Litigation”?
The letter from Steven Schriver, Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney, Special Prosecutions Unit included “For its part, the City Council waived confidentiality with respect to the June 29, 2021, closed session and openly discussed the proceedings during its August 24. 2021, meeting.” The public deserves answers to these important questions.
Gene Felder, Laguna BeachView Our User Comment Policy