Three Santa Clarita City Council members attended a meeting hosted by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to discuss the “management, safety and prevention of wildfires on federal lands” on Aug. 15.
This week, The Signal was asked: With a City Council quorum present, was the meeting a violation of the Brown Act, California’s open meeting law?
City officials say no, because the meeting’s purpose was to discuss a federal issue, not a local, municipal one.
Attendees at the meeting co-hosted by Perdue and Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, included Santa Clarita City Council members Marsha McLean, Bill Miranda and Laurene Weste, as well as Assistant Fire Chief Anderson Mackey, a key figure in the city of Santa Clarita’s contracted fire services through Los Angeles County.
A statement from the city of Santa Clarita issued Wednesday by city Communications Manager Carrie Lujan, in response to The Signal’s inquiry about the meeting, noted the following:
“Meetings held to discuss subject matters within the jurisdiction of the City Council are subject to the Brown Act. However, last Wednesday’s event with Secretary Perdue and Congressman Knight does not fall within the requirements for a Brown Act noticed meeting by the local jurisdiction, as the subject of management, safety and prevention of wildfires on federal lands is not within the subject matter jurisdiction of the City Council.”
The city declined to make City Attorney Joe Montes available for additional questions regarding the city’s interpretation of the Brown Act.
Jim Ewert, general counsel for the California News Publishers Association, said the key question is whether the meeting covered any matters that are within the council’s jurisdiction.
“The Brown Act defines a meeting of any congregation of the majority of the members of that legislative body at a time or place to hear or discuss or deliberate on any matter that’s in the subject jurisdiction of the body,” Ewert said.
The intent of the law, per the Brown Act, states the following: “The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”