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Los Angeles County supervisors violated the open-meeting law earlier this year, the district attorney’s office concluded.

By Marisa Gerber
October 31, 2014

Los Angeles County supervisors violated the state’s open-meeting law earlier this year by discussing compensation negotiations behind closed doors without properly informing the public, according to the district attorney’s office.

The D.A. investigation followed a July meeting where Supervisor Gloria Molina said she thought it was inappropriate that the board had discussed in closed session an increase of taxpayer contributions to a top art official’s compensation package.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Bjorn Dodd concluded it was not improper for the board to discuss the matter in closed session, but that the supervisors violated the state’s open-meeting law, known as the Ralph M. Brown Act, by failing to include those discussions on the public agenda before the meeting.

Eric Preven, a county resident who often scrutinizes board business and unsuccessfully ran for supervisor, filed a complaint with the district attorney’s public integrity division after hearing Molina’s comments this summer. He said he was pleased with the recent finding.

“This goes to accountability,” he said.

Failing to put the item on the agenda robs the public of the chance to bring up the issue with the board before they meet in closed session for discussion, said Terry Francke, general counsel for the open-government group Californians Aware.

Last week, Dodd wrote to county supervisors informing them of his finding. He told them he expected his letter would prompt them to be more careful when preparing agendas and said he didn’t plan to take any further action on the issue.

County counsel Mark Saladino said he agreed with the D.A.’s finding, adding that the county had included the discussions on the agendas for several closed session meetings but had done so incorrectly. They were listed as department head performance evaluations, he said, instead of as a labor negotiation.

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