By Anne Lowe
The La Puente City Council has received a demand for corrective action from Californians Aware Vice President Richard McKee in connection with a closed session described as concerning "pending litigation" in which council members voted on two items.
The council’s Nov. 16 session ended with a report that a vote had been taken on two matters, but Interim City Attorney James Casso did not give details on what had been considered. The item was listed on the agenda as anticipated litigation for two cases.
McKee, CalAware's Vice President for Open Government Compliance, has sent a letter to the city demanding the council correct alleged Brown Act violations which occurred at the Nov. 16 meeting and also on Nov. 23. McKee is also seeking a reduction in La Puente’s fees for Public Records Act requests from 25 cents to 10 cents per page.
The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports:
Californians Aware is targeting cities in an effort to promote greater transparency in goverment.
"Attorneys don't seem to care about the requirement to announce existing facts and circumstance for anticipated litigation," McKee said. "We're going to start pushing this issue wherever we find it. ... There are way too many things that simply get shoved behind closed doors."
La Puente Mayor David Argudo said the council generally defers to its attorney in deciding when it should meet in closed session.
"We should be open and transparent and doing the business of the people," Argudo said. "(McKee) inquiring just shows that people care."
At the Nov. 23 meeting, Councilman Vince House tried win support on a proposal to record minutes of closed session meetings, he said. The minutes would have only been accessible to the council, the clerk and the city attorney.
House was concerned that the council was forced to rely solely on notes taken by the city attorney for reference to past decisions in closed session.
The motion failed.
"They don't want to police themselves, yet we're going to get in trouble if we don't," House said.
Californians Aware is also seeking a reduction in fees La Puente charges for copies of public documents from 25 cents per page to 10 cents.
Currently, the city only charges 10 cents for documents that are required to be sent to the Fair Political Practices Commission, according to City Clerk Pat Jacquez-Narez. All other documents are 25 cents. She is investigating how La Puente established its fees to help Casso respond to the organization's request.
Californians Aware uses the fees set by the state Attorney General's Office as a baseline for other public entities, McKee said.