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City Attorney Exploring City Council’s Possible Violation Of Brown Act

San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith arrives for a City Council meeting, Aug...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith arrives for a City Council meeting, Aug. 23, 2013.

The possibility exists that the San Diego City Council has been violating the California's open meeting law over the past 13 years by permitting non-agenda public comment only once a week, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said Monday.

In comments to council members, Goldsmith said issues brought up in a lawsuit filed last week by land-use attorney Craig Sherman are worth investigating.

Since 2001, the city has considered the meetings held on Monday and Tuesday of most weeks to be consolidated, meaning that a non-agenda public comment session — in which residents can speak on topics of their own choosing — only needed to be held on one of those days.

Current practice is to take those public speakers on Tuesday mornings. Goldsmith said a 2001 opinion issued by the City Attorney's Office stated that the practice met the legal requirements of the Brown Act.

"There was no legal research, there was no authority cited as to whether that's appropriate under the Brown Act, and certainly no discussion of what a consolidated meeting is," Goldsmith said. "We looked back at the notices and agendas over the years, and there are issues as to whether this was a correct conclusion in 2001."

He said the opinion is not necessarily wrong, but it needs a thorough review.

An agreement was reached with Sherman to take no action on the litigation until the review is completed, Goldsmith said. The deal is contingent on the City Council holding non-agenda public comment each day they meet, he said.

After learning of the city attorney's concerns, council President Todd Gloria said he would attempt to schedule a special closed-session meeting later this week to decide how to proceed.

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