We’ve watched as Humboldt County’s city councils have sworn in their newest members, and we’d like to give them a present for the holidays: Our holiday wish list.
(Don’t worry. It’s short.)
1. Please, do the public’s business in public.
(That’s it. We’re big on brevity.)
Each newly elected city officials will, we hope, receive a crash course in the California open meeting law, courtesy of their respective municipality.
If not, there’s one available online, courtesy of the First Amendment Coalition: https://firstamendmentcoalition.org/open-meetings-3/facs-brown-act-primer/.
There, they or any of their constituents can read at length about what constitutes a public meeting, how much notice they’re legally required to give the public in advance of a public meeting, and what they’re required to report out of closed session.
Why are we being so Grinch-y about the Brown Act around Christmas? Well, it’s the law. As our friends at the First Amendment Coalition say, “A knowing violation of the Brown Act with the intent to deprive the public of information to which it is entitled is a crime.”
Aha! But, as our friends point out, it’s almost toothless: “However, no one has ever been successfully prosecuted for a violation of the Brown Act.”
Almost toothless. Local agencies have indeed been sued. At the end of the day, that’s the public’s only recourse — other than asking nicely, so:
Pretty please, with sugar on top, do everything you can to follow the spirit and the letter of the law when it comes to open government in Humboldt County. Please make sure the public’s business is done in public. Shed light wherever you go.
That’s all. Best wishes, and good luck.