Under the settlement, the city will issue a written statement admitting that Brown Act violations occurred at an Aug. 25 City Council meeting. City Attorney Ted Schneider characterized them as “potential unintentional technical violations.”
The settlement also requires the City Council to take two hours of Brown Act retraining conducted by Schneider with McKee’s participation. It further requires the city to pay $6,000 of McKee’s attorney’s fees in bringing the lawsuit. In return, McKee will dismiss the lawsuit.
On the morning of Aug. 25, Councilman Steve Conaway accused three other unnamed members of the five-member council of violating the Brown Act by exchanging emails earlier in the month with Larry Pennell, who was then the city’s interim city manager. Conaway alleged that the exchanges, which concerned a candidate for the permanent city manager position, constituted a private meeting of the council.
Walker began the council’s meeting that night by requesting an immediate closed session to discuss Conaway’s accusations. About an hour later, the council returned to its public session, where Walker announced that “an unintentional Brown Act violation has occurred.”
McKee’s lawsuit alleged that because the closed session was not listed on the council’s agenda, it constituted a second Brown Act violation.
Last month, however, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office decided not to file misdemeanor charges or a civil action against the council for the alleged Brown Act violations.
Both McKee and the city praised the settlement of the lawsuit. “The recent Brown Act violations now admitted by the Fillmore City Council illustrate how easily elected officials can impede the public’s right to be involved in the decision-making of their local government,” McKee said.