City disputes Brown Act complaint about public comment

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on February, 26, 2020, is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. Dan Watson/The Signal
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The city of Santa Clarita is disputing a complaint from a local resident who claimed the City Council violated the Brown Act during its March 19 special meeting on district-based elections. 

On April 10, resident Steve Petzold wrote to Mayor Cameron Smyth stating there “was a substantial violation” of the Brown Act because the council did not make “the meeting (accessible) telephonically or otherwise electronically to all members of the public seeking to attend and to address the local legislative body,” citing an executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom issued March 4. 

The public meeting was held at City Hall just hours before Los Angeles County and California established the safer-at-home orders. 

In response, City Attorney Joseph Montes said in a statement the meeting was conducted “in full compliance with the requirements of the Brown Act,” adding that the agenda was published more than 24 hours in advance and that the public had the opportunity to attend. 

Petzold and at least two other members of the public attended and provided comments. 

The letter, which Petzold wrote and cited having support from residents Elaine Ballace and Sharon Ventrice, demanded that the council “cure and correct” its actions by calling for a new meeting that would allow access for public comment “either in person, by telephone, or other electronic means such as Zoom.” 

In response to citing Newsom’s order, which waived the requirement of physical presence at public meetings, Montes said, “That order was referenced on the agenda because it was not known at the time of posting whether teleconferencing would be needed. Ultimately, the March 19, 2020, meeting did not use teleconferencing, so neither the Brown Act provisions governing teleconferencing nor the requirements of Order N-25-20 were applicable.”

All upcoming City Council meetings remain canceled and city facilities closed until further notice due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

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