The Brown Act contains many wonderful treasures, but one of the wonderfullest is to be found at §54954.1, which states unambiguously that:
Any person may request that a copy of the agenda, or a copy of all the documents constituting the agenda packet, of any meeting of a legislative body be mailed to that person. … Upon receipt of the written request, the legislative body or its designee shall cause the requested materials to be mailed at the time the agenda is posted pursuant to Section 54954.2 and 54956 or upon distribution to all, or a majority of all, of the members of a legislative body, whichever occurs first.
I ask many of my BID friends to send me these notifications and their agenda packets. It really seems to piss most of them off.1 I don’t feel bad for asking BIDs to comply with the law, though. After all, it’s voluntary on their part and they’re making an awful damn lot of money out of it.
So anyway, our friends at the South Park BID are reasonably cooperative about complying with the law. They invited me to sign up for their public mailing list, which I did. It’s an open question as to whether this is compliance, since the law requires notifications to be sent at the time that the board receives them, but this presently seems too minor to quibble over. On the other hand they spout an awful lot of spam through that account, and clearly I shouldn’t be required to sort through the junk just to be able to receive notifications that they’re legally mandated to send. Again, though, this is an argument for another day.
However, it turns out that the South Park BID does distribute packets to its board of directors in advance of the meetings and also that those are not available via the public mailing list. I only found out about this recently, so I wrote to the BID boss ladies and asked them to send them goodies my way!
After some nonsense with them interrogating me mercilessly about which email address I wanted the board packets sent to,2 we got all the details ironed out. And after that, my friends, it must follow, as the night the day, that I ended up sending Ellen Riotto some of my sage legal advice and, amazingly, she ended up taking it!3 Read on for the details and a bunch of emails!
The other day I got a notification that there was going to be a meeting! It’s going to be tomorrow! And I didn’t get the board packet and I didn’t get the board packet and I didn’t get the board packet and I didn’t want to hassle anyone cause I’ve been called out for that before but finally I emailed the BID Boss Lady, Ellen Riotto, and I was all like “Hey, friend! Where’s my darned board packet??”
And then she emailed me back at 7:05 p.m. yesterday evening, and here is the email she sent me and here is what it said:
From: Ellen Riotto <email@example.com>
Cc:Katie Kiefer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject:FW: 2/22 SPBID Board Packet
Date:Tuesday, February 20, 2018 7:05 PM
From: Ellen Riotto <email@example.com>
Date: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 at 6:59 PM
Subject: 2/22 SPBID Board Packet
Dear Members of the Board,
In preparation for Thursday’s meeting, please click here to access your Board packets. Please let me know if you have any issues with the link.
A reminder: Thursday’s meeting will be graciously hosted by AEG:
STAPLES Center – Wells Fargo Rooms B & C
1111 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles CA 90015
A map is included in the packet. I’m still determining if we will have parking and will let you know ASAP.
It’s interesting to note that the click here leads to a Dropbox directory with all the relevant records.4 And in case that’s offline by the time you’re reading this, I uploaded all the contents to Archive.Org. I haven’t had time to read most of the junk in there yet5 but one item that really stood out was the agenda for tomorrow‘s meeting.6
First of all, note that the meeting is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. Also take a look at item 11 which reads, in its inglorious entirety: “11. Closed Session”. Now, I don’t know much in this world, but I do know the Brown Act pretty well, and I can tell you right now that this kind of top-secretive jive is strictly verboten. In particular, §54954.2(a)(1) states unequivocally that
At least 72 hours before a regular meeting, the legislative body of the local agency, or its designee, shall post an agenda containing a brief general description of each item of business to be transacted or discussed at the meeting, including items to be discussed in closed session.
In other words, it’s actually illegal in California for an agency subject to the Brown Act to have a closed session and not say on the agenda more or less what they’re gonna be discussing behind those closed doors. And the statement of what it’s about must generally be published 72 hours before the meeting. This means that last night was too late! So look, I do want to abolish business improvement districts in California. And I think that a reasonable strategy for doing this is watching them super-closely to see if they violate the law. Violations can have drastic consequences for BIDs.
But on the other hand, it’s really bush league to complain about matters like this one, which is obviously a mistake rather than a conspiracy.7 Hence I fired off a friendly little note to Ellen Riotto and manic minion Katie Kiefer. Note that this was at 7:16 p.m. And, because I just roll that way, I even offered them a solution. Call the closed session part of the meeting special. Then §54956 kicks in, which only requires 24 hours notice8 and would therefore give them until 8:30 a.m. this morning. Here is what the email said:
To: Ellen Riotto <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Katie Kiefer >email@example.com>
Subject: Re: FW: 2/22 SPBID Board Packet
Date: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 7:16 PM
Size: 4 KB
Thanks so much, SP friends!
Please note that your agenda’s description of your closed session at Thursday’s meeting is not in compliance with the Brown Act. The law, at section 54954.2(a)(1), requires your agenda to include: “a brief general description of each item of business to be transacted or discussed at the meeting, including items to be discussed in closed session.”
Of course, your agenda contains no description of what you’re planning to discuss in your closed session. My feeling, and it’s a pretty well informed feeling, is that, therefore, it would be illegal for you to go ahead with this closed session, whatever the topic might be. Since the meeting is less than 72 hours away it’s too late to amend your agenda.
On the other hand, I notice that when the City of Los Angeles messes up like this, they will generally just announce a special meeting, called as part of their regular meeting, and publish a separate agenda just for that part. Probably you all could do the same.
On the other other hand, obviously it’s not good policy to take legal advice from internet randoms like me. Probably you will want to check it out with your own lawyer. Clearly you have until 8:30 tomorrow morning to call a special meeting, so there’s still time for that. Please don’t forget to send me a copy of the agenda should you choose to do this.
Thanks again for the packet!
P.s. it’s nice to see that you use Dropbox in the ordinary conduct of your business and that you will occasionally even use it, on a whim, I guess, to transfer files to me, of all people. This is important information!
And really, I thought that was going to be the end of it, that they would go ahead and break the law because fuck you humanity, and that I wouldn’t be able to turn them in to the L.A. County D.A.’s public integrity unit like I did recently with the Los Feliz Village BID because I wouldn’t have been there to witness the violation.
So imagine my surprise when this little nuggins hit my inbox this morning at precisely 8:30 a.m., announcing a meeting called special!9 The email said:
From: Ellen Riotto <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Katie Kiefer <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Meeting notifications for 2018
Date: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 8:30 AM
Size: 20 KB
Please see here for the agenda for the special meeting: https://southpark.la/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/180222-BOD-Special-Mtg-Agenda.pdf
Note that in case that link dies at some point you can also get a copy from Archive.Org. And lo! And behold!! They did exactly what I recommended and called a special meeting for their closed session and provided a Brown-Act-compliant description:
1. Closed Session
a. PERSONNEL MATTER (Government Code section 54957)
b. PERSONNEL MATTER (Government Code section 54957)
Employee Personal Safety Concern
c. PERSONNEL MATTER (Government Code section 54957)
Employment, Homeless Outreach Coordinator
Hey Carol Humiston!! How you like me now??! Who’s giving your clients good advice, eh? Lucky someone’s paying attention! Or they’d be going down the proverbial tubes tomorrow morning and no damn thanks to you!! And I will keep paying attention, never fear!10
Image of Ellen Riotto is ©2018 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and is all messed up from this thing here.
- Please take note, Kerry Morrison and Kerry Morrison’s lawyers, that pissing anyone off is not my motive. Getting notified of the meetings is my motive. Pissing people off is something I enjoy when it occurs but I’m not taking action to make it occur. At least not in this case. Notable exceptions to the pissed-offedness are the Media District BID and the East Hollywood BID, both of which just added me to the same mailing list that they use to notify their actual directors. I mean, they might still be pissed off, but at least they have the dignity and the taste not to reveal themselves by pitching a hissy fit, like e.g. Suzanne Holley of the freaking Downtown Center BID. None of the other BIDs will do things the easy way, though, which occasionally gets them in some trouble. Generally, I have the impression that a lot of BID staff want to insulate their directors from all knowledge of my very existence. It’s like they’ll feel that they’ve failed in their duties should the directors have to do anything conscious as a result of my demands. This thing with notifications might be an example, but the widespread refusal to have directors search their email accounts in response to my CPRA requests is certainly an example. That’s not going to stand much longer, even if the BIDs don’t know it yet. Looking at you, Rena Leddy and Estela Lopez!
- Which seems to be some kind of fetish, probably not sexual but who really knows, of their weirdo Burbankian lawyer Carol Humiston. Once, clearly stoned out of her mind on white privilege and Chardonnay, Rena Leddy, another Humiston disciple, asked me aggressively about nine zillion times in a row what email address I wanted her to use for some nonsense that I don’t really want to go into details about right now but you’ll be hearing about it in the future, never fear, and she used to be relatively sane as BIDdies go. Such is the power of Carol Humiston, friends! It is the power to cloud men’s minds!! And ladies’ minds too!!
- Although she never did thank me for my kindness and perspicacity. Ellen Riotto, were you raised by wolves? In any case, you’re welcome!
- Part of why this is interesting is because Ellen Riotto and her twisted little pipsqueak of a minionesque henchwoman Katie Kiefer, again probably because of the demonic and intrinsically Kerrymorrisonesque influence of Carol Humiston, who will probably always be the Queen of Burbank, have for quite a while now refused to transfer files to me using Dropbox. They have no reason for this other than to hassle me, and the practice is so transparently stupid that even Katie Kiefer, who has in the past shown herself to have a quite high tolerance for inscrutable stupidity, hasn’t been able to support it consistently. Yay, Katie! There’s going to be a stop put to this soonish, and you’ll hear about it here. It’s also interesting to note that probably under Florida Law, anyway, all these bad BIDdies would be required to transfer electronic files via Dropbox. See FL Statute 119.01(e), which states: ” If an agency provides access to public records by remote electronic means, such access should be provided in the most cost-effective and efficient manner available to the agency providing the information.” In most cases, that means Dropbox, not mailing a freaking compact disk. They don’t even use CDs for data in freaking North Korea anymore, friends.
- And probably won’t super-soon. Reading the junk just makes me want to file a bunch of CPRA requests, and, maybe you’ve noticed, but I’m stalled out on CPRA requests to SPBID right now for various reasons. I know I say this an awful lot, but it’s true nevertheless, but stay tuned for further developments!
- Unfortunately I can’t attend this meeting because it overlaps with the CCEA‘s meeting, and that seems more important right now.
- That’s a false dichotomy to be sure. These people make mistakes because their inbred white privilege has taught them, accurately, by the way, that their mistakes will have no consequences because the law is written to protect their interests. The law is written that way because of a conspiracy. Without the conspiracy they wouldn’t make nearly so darn many mistakes. But this is tangential to the main point right now.
- The City of Los Angeles does this all the time.
- This weird syntax, “meeting called special,” seems to be some kind of term of art associated with the Brown Act. The City of Los Angeles talks this way and I’m just copying them. Also, the linked-to email has the much-milder-than-Rena-Leddy discussion about which email address do I want them to use to send board packets to. Maybe it’s entertaining, but it’s off topic. Read it if you want to!
- If you yourself want to keep paying attention, take a very close look at that whole agenda. There’s a new illegalism on there, which only goes to show that often fixing one thing breaks something else. If you spot it leave a note in the comments or drop me a line and, if you’re the first, I’ll make sure you’re adequately rewarded for your efforts.