Neil Nisperos, Staff Writer
Created: 07/23/2012 12:02:08 PM PDT
A number of Inland Empire cities are planning to continue posting discussion agendas for the public to review well ahead of meetings, despite the state’s suspension of that Brown Act requirement.
Redlands has already passed a resolution saying it will continue to follow the open-meeting rules, while Rancho Cucamonga’s City Council plans to consider a similar resolution at its next meeting.
Officials at several other area cities say they will adhere to several provisions of the Brown Act that have been suspended by the Legislature.
The Ralph M. Brown Act protects the public’s rights to view, hear and participate in open meetings of government at all levels in California.
A provision of the act suspended by a trailer bill to the state budget no longer requires all agendas and legislation be published at least 72 hours before a proposed action is taken.
“When the state’s health gets better, they will reinstate it, but I would like to have staff prepare a resolution, that we will adopt formally, that we want to continue as a city, all the provisions in the spirit of the Brown Act that the state has suspended,” said Rancho Cucamonga Mayor Dennis Michael.
Officials said the suspension is a result of the state budget crisis. In the past, costs incurred by cities for Brown Act compliance work were reimbursed by the state.
Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar said his city recently passed a resolution similar to the one Rancho Cucamonga will consider.
“It’s important to offer transparency and disclose when meetings are happening, in the public’s best interest,” Aguilar said.”
San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris said the state’s decision to suspend the Brown Act in order to help fix the state budget crisis “defies common sense.”
“The city of San Bernardino, like other cities across the state, will continue to faithfully abide by all provisions of the Brown Act to ensure open and transparent government, even though we won’t be reimbursed for the state mandate as required by law,” Morris said in a statement. “In its budget crisis, the state should be trying to ensure more transparency, not less.”
Fontana Mayor Aquanetta Warren said her city will likely introduce a similar resolution for consideration.
“Even though I’m sick of us having mandates funded by the state, this is one that we should continue,” Warren said. “I know our city attorney is going to be talking to us about it, but right now, I was glad to see everyone continue it based on the League’s recommendations.”
Terry Francke, general counsel for the open-government advocacy group Californians Aware, said the suspension would not have happened if some local agencies “didn’t make a habit of turning in inflated costs for reimbursement.”
“The size of the claims and the fact of so many making claims has put the state in the position of owing local government $20 million a year for what amounts to paperwork local governments do anyway,” Francke said.
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