Brown Act questions

Dear Editor:I commend the enthusiasm and commitment on the part of our City Council in courting CEO Elon Musk of Tesla Motors to build their new electric-car plant in Downey. However, after reading an article in the Sept. 16 edition of the Press-Telegram about Downey's efforts to convince Musk to build the plant here, I am concerned Council may be a little overzealous. According to the story by PT staff writer John Canalis, "All five members (emphasis added) of the Downey City Council took a bus to Hawthorne on Tuesday in their quest to persuade Tesla Motors to build an electric-car plant where NASA once assembled space capsules." While I'm sure each council member was separated by several rows of seats on that bus, to discourage speaking to one another about city business, I hope our City Attorney Mr. Lee was driving that bus, to admonish Council about avoiding even the appearance of a violation of the Brown Act. They may not have been sitting behind the dais in Council Chambers, but having all five council members on that bus at the same time for a road trip across town to Hawthorne, sure looks like a council meeting to me. Coincidentally, in the same paper there is also a story about the reconstructed Johnie's Broiler on Firestone Boulevard in Downey reopening soon as a Bob's Big Boy, with the unveiling of the restaurant's iconic "Big Boy" character on the marquis. According to the article, the City Council and city management received a tour of the restaurant. The last paragraph of the story quotes Mayor Mario Guerra in staking out a good location to dine, "This is going to be the City Council booth, right here." I hope that booth is big enough to seat all five members of the Council, and that Lee is waiting on the table with good counsel about the Brown Act. -Brian Heyman, Downey Editor's note: City administration, who were copied on the above letter, issued the following response: The Brown Act is very clear regarding what staff arranged on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2009. For your readers' reference, the Brown Act requirements can be found in the California Government Code. Section 54952.2.C.5 of the Government Code states that the Brown Act requirements are not imposed for: "The attendance of a majority of the members of a legislative body at a purely social or ceremonial occasion, provided that a majority of the members do not discuss among themselves business of a specific nature that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body of the local agency." The unveiling of the Bob's statue and the delivery of a basket to the Tesla Motors CEO were ceremonial occasions. No city business was discussed during the travel to and from the ceremonies. Members of the press from The Downey Patriot and Long Beach Press-Telegram were present during the travel and can confirm this fact. Readers with any questions should call Scott Pomrehn, assistant deputy city manager, at (562) 904-7286.

********** Published: September 18, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 22