County’s chief lawyer: No Brown Act violation

By From page A1 | July 28, 2014

El Dorado County Counsel Ed Knapp reiterated that there was no Brown Act violation related to a letter written by the Board of Supervisors that ran as an “Op Ed” in the July 2 Mountain Democrat. Knapp opened the public portion of the July 22 board meeting explaining that the letter, drafted during a closed session on June 24, was related to an evaluation of Chief Administrative Officer Terri Daly. The letter, signed by all four supervisors, expressed complete confidence in Daly’s handling of county affairs.

The following was included in the minutes of the July 15 board meeting as the last piece of business of the day:

“Late report from County Counsel regarding this item — the board previously held a closed session for the performance evaluation of the chief administrative officer on June 24. The board, in that closed session, prepared a letter, later given to the press who later ran such as an Op Ed piece. County Counsel did not believe there was a reportable action, however, because the press has inquired, County Counsel reported the letter was authorized by the Board of Supervisors.”

Citing a number of Government Code sections, Knapp later told the Mountain Democrat that actions taken during an employee evaluation are not “reportable” unless they result in some change in the employment status of the individual. Had they been reportable, he said the Brown Act would have applied and the matter would have to be agendized. The board’s action, composing the letter, did not have that result and therefore was not “reportable” and no Brown Act violation occurred.

The Ralph M. Brown Act demands transparency on the part of elected officials and dictates regulations regarding posting of the agenda, conducting the public’s business in open sessions, allowing public comment on agendized items and the like. Exceptions include, but are not limited to, certain personnel matters, negotiations with labor groups and negotiations related to the acquisition of real property.

Knapp said his discussion Tuesday was intended to acknowledge the public’s concerns and “put the alleged violation of the Brown Act to rest.”

Government Code section 54957 prescribes what can be done in a closed session, such as personnel matters, he said. Section 54957.1 (subsection A-5) spells out what items are required to be reported out from a closed session, and a 2006 decision by the state’s Attorney General excludes the employee performance evaluation as a reportable action as noted above, he said.


Chris Daley

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