Thursday, February 01, 2007

Brown Act Follies


I guess most of us who follow Costa Mesa politics know that our young jailer/mayor, Allan Mansoor, and the court jester, Mayor Pro Tem Eric Bever, are pals. Both men have alluded to that relationship many times over the years. Mansoor made it very clear when he actively campaigned for Bever in 2004 and Bever speaks on behalf of Mansoor frequently. Based on their public statements, it's clear that they have a tight relationship.

Those of us who watched the campaign last year realize that Mansoor took Wendy Leece under his wing and professed his support for her candidacy at every opportunity. She was at his side at almost every public function and shared campaign literature with her. He even contributed to her campaign. It appears that not much has changed since the election, either. I've seen recent video of the two of them at a Republican function, where he acknowledged her great contributions to the City of Costa Mesa.

All this collegial coziness leads me to a question for you. Do you know about the Ralph M. Brown Act? That act is part of the California Government code, and was designed to guarantee that public bodies, like commissions and councils, conduct their business in an open manner. To quote the first section in part, "It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly."

Here's why I asked the question. Since the mayor and Bever are buddies, and since the mayor and Leece seem to have been joined at the hip over the past nearly a year, what are the chances they occasionally violate the Brown Act by discussing city business together out of view of the public? Not possible, you say? How about this scenario? The mayor and Bever talk about an issue, then the mayor and Leece talk about the same issue. The mayor can't have that second conversation without considering Bever's viewpoint, can he? Based on my understanding of the law, that "chain conversation" is a violation of the Brown Act.

What brings this question to mind is the frequency with which The Mayor, Bever and Leece seem attuned to each other's view on issues. Yes, I'm sure they agree on many things philosophically and it's obvious that, once they decide on an issue, it's going to pass. The minority on the council has no real voice since it doesn't have the votes. Of course, Mansoor's New Majority understands that fact - all of them can probably count to three - so it's not outside the realm of possibility that they pre-fabricate their opinions before the actual public meetings.

Do I have any evidence about such potential violations? Nope, not a one. Do I think those violations are possible? Yes, I do. Do I think they are probable? Well, I've watched Mansoor and Bever on the dais for several years and I know that Bever continues to play fast and loose with the rules. He's passed notes on the dais suggesting a course of action to other council members, which is a technical violation of the Brown Act. When challenged on these transgressions he just cavalierly brushes the criticism aside with a glib retort. Does this make him trustworthy? I'll leave that speculation to you.

Because of their special relationships, I think the probability of Brown Act violations exist. After the lies and deceit during the campaign, this is just one more reason to view the performance of the New Majority with a critical eye.

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4 Comments:

Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Hmmmm... A curiously interesting lack of concern about this issue. One could interpret this to mean that you're OK with circumventing the public in the management of municipal issues. I sure hope that's not the case, but time will tell... maybe as soon as tomorrow night's council meeting.

2/05/2007 09:42:00 AM  
Anonymous dvs said...

Or, it could mean that some of us were away for a few days!

I don't think there is as much a lack of interest as there is a feeling, at least on my part, that with the complete lack of professionalism that our council exhibits, this would only be expected. It would be fun to catch them at it though!

2/05/2007 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

dvs,

Welcome back. I agree, it would be fun to catch them in a Brown Act violation.

2/05/2007 10:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Humberto said...

Pot stirrer:

There's no doubt in my mind that, based on what we saw during the election campaign, Mansoor and his friends will likely violate the Brown Act, or perhaps they have already violated it. If you recall the recent decision on the Transportation System, in which, the three of them, Mansoor, Bever and Leece, had already decided a "No" vote, even before they were scheduled to discuss the issue. The question is, how do we prove that? And the other question is more at the personal level, or professional if you may. Who or what group is willing to take legal action against them? I agree with you when you say, the opposition, that is Foley and Dixon, "have little say" (my own word) in the decision making process. But, when you think about it, we, the people, also "have little say" on those processes as well.

2/05/2007 11:06:00 AM  

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