(UPDATED) Downey councilman alleges Brown Act violations, threatens to sue
DOWNEY -- Councilman Sean Ashton, who was passed over for the position of mayor pro tem in a controversial decision Tuesday, has accused the city of Downey of violating the state's open meetings law, and is threatening to sue if the violations "are not addressed."
On Tuesday, the City Council voted to make Fernando Vasquez mayor for 2017. Alex Saab nominated himself for the position of mayor pro tem, after which Ashton nominated himself for the same position.
"This is the time where I expected to hear some sort of explanation as to why they believed that I was not "ready" to serve as Mayor Pro Tem," said Ashton. "However, to my surprise, there was silence."
Ashton's motion died for lack of a second; Councilman Rick Rodriguez seconded Saab's original motion, which passed on a 4-0 vote, with Ashton abstaining.
"Two Brown Act violations occurred in [Tuesday's] meeting," said Ashton. "The first violation was when other council members had a meeting before they decided to vote. This meeting was an illegal closed meeting that violated the Brown Act. The second violation was when the Mayor did not allow for public comment on this item (or for the appointment of the Mayor as well).
"It is with a sad heart, but a heavy resolve that I decided to file with the City of Downey a letter of notification of a Brown Act violation. The City of Downey has 30 days to respond to my letter. If they do not respond or do not agree with my letter, then I will file a complaint with the District Attorney for the County of Los Angeles.
"In effect, I will be suing the City of Downey if the Brown Act violations are not addressed. I am prepared to spend my own money to fight this; not because I like to take people to court, but I am an elected official for the City of Downey and I must do this to protect the rights of the people of the city.
"If the city can do this to me, what is stopping them from doing other things that we don't want like giving contracts to businesses that belong to family members, doing away with term limits for elected officials, or just giving themselves a raise.
"In closing, I am disappointed by the actions of my council colleagues; not because I wasn't appointed as the Mayor Pro Tem, but because of the illegal way they went about doing it. Especially when the Mayor just last night talked about how our government needs to be 'transparent'."
On Thursday, Mayor Saab announced a second discussion on the positions of mayor and mayor pro tem to take place Dec. 27 at 6:30 p.m.
“Although we followed all of the appropriate rules and procedures, out of an abundance of caution I am asking staff to agendize the items for the next council meeting to allow the public and City Council a second opportunity to comment,” said Saab.
“The Downey City Council is committed to transparency and public involvement, and that’s why we will schedule a second opportunity to attend an open, public meeting at which we [will] discuss the items,” added incoming mayor Fernando Vasquez.
This article was updated at 11:45 a.m. with news that a second discussion on positions of mayor and mayor pro tem will be held Dec. 27.