Zev Yaroslavsky Mark Ridley-Thomas
Mike Antonovich Don Knabe Gloria Molina
Lawsuit Filed Against County Board
This month the County Board of Supervisors became the target of a Superior Court Lawsuit filed by Californians Aware, a Sacramento based, non profit watchdog organization dedicated to preserving open and transparent government.
According to the Verified Petition for Writ of Mandate and Injunction filed under Case No. BS135835 the Californians Aware lawsuit is seeking Declaratory Relief for Violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act for closed meetings held in September of 2011 that involved Governor Jerry Brown and the five members of the Board of Supervisors and others who may not have been authorized to attend or participate in legally held closed Board meetings.
Terry Francke, (left) is a highly respected legal expert on the California Ralph M Brown Act. He is the General Counsel for Californians Aware. He signed the Verified Petition under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the lawsuit and the allegations and exhibits from the public records are believed to be true and accurate. Over the years Francke has represented news organizations and citizen groups who have had difficulty obtaining public records and access to government meetings. Serving as co-counsel with Francke are Dennis Winston, President Californians Aware and .Kelly Avilas of La Verne, California.
Supervisors Call For URGENT Closed SessionBut the Board of Supervisors has posted this notice of a scheduled closed session on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 to discuss the lawsuit and four other items. The Board has not indicated what staff members may be present during the proposed five hour meeting.but there are five issues before them.
Judicial Conflict of Interest?
Apparently State Superior Court Judge Ann I Jones has not yet recognized the same urgency as the Board of Supervisors,for she has scheduled the first conference hearing on the lawsuit for July 6, 2012. Although the County of Los Angeles is a party to this case, and Judge Jones has admitted receiving double benefits from the County of Los Angeles on top of her State salary and benefits, she has not recused herself from sitting on the case. Like Judge Jones, all State Superior Court Judges in Los Angeles have been receiving double benefits from the County, these benefits were held to be illegal in Sturgeon v County of Los Angeles a landmark lawsuit won by the Judicial Watch public interest legal organization in 2008.
Activists Encouraged By Lawsuit
Jon Nahhas is a Marina del Rey resident and boating activist who has been critical of the Board of Supervisors for repeatedly violating the Brown Act while conducting the public's business. In particular the County's massive re-development projects on County-owned land in Marina del Rey. Nahhas has complained that County residents have been prohibited from speaking on issues to be voted upon by the Board involving proposed developments . He told Full Disclosure "the Californians Aware lawsuit comes at the most opportune time when the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors are continuing to ignore the parameters of the Brown Act and conduct the people’s business in private. The federal government is already imposing sanctions on the County Probation Department and investigating several other County departments. The County Sheriff’s Department has been caught planting evidence and falsifying documents. The Supervisors have been accused of tampering with the County’s Planning Divison employees. Key documents in Los Angeles County Offices have gone missing and computers that would have stored the data have suddenly broken. Many more scandals are slowly coming to the surface as the Board of Supervisors continue to deter public inquiry by limiting public speaking at Board Meetings. Terry Francke and Californians Aware are forcing the County Supervisors to comply with our laws in California and hopefully moving them in a direction of an open government."