For a few months now I’ve been running a project aimed at getting the BIDs of Los Angeles to comply with the Brown Act. This certainly ought to be the job of the City of Los Angeles, but they have completely abdicated all responsibility, so it seems to be more or less just up to me. The system relies on §54960.2 of the Brown Act, which allows any interested party, such as me, to allege that a BID1 violated the Brown Act and demand that they cease and desist from violating it in the future.
The BID then has the choice of issuing an unconditional commitment not to repeat the alleged violations2 within 30 days of the letter or else face a lawsuit. I’ve done four of these since August, the first three resulting in complete and utter capitulation by the BIDs involved, and the fourth I just sent out yesterday morning to the South Park BID. Here’s a list of the old ones:
- Pacific Palisades BID — Demand and capitulation.
- Studio City BID — Demand and capitulation.
- Byzantine-Latino Quarter BID — Demand and capitulation.
Now, the South Park BID has had its problems in the past complying with the Brown Act, but on the other hand, Ellen Salome Riotto has been relatively willing to learn from her mistakes. Usually I just drop her a line and she fixes the problem.3 However, I recently learned of two new violations which are far, far too serious to be left to the kind of informal mole whackery in which I’ve so far been willing to engage. These are the subject of this demand letter which I sent yesterday morning to the BID.
The letter alleges violations of three sections of the Brown Act. The first is that they required me to sign in to a meeting in April. I’ve written about this incident before and they seem to have stopped doing it, but it’s worth including here to get them to formally commit not to doing it any more. The second violation is that in November the BID Board actually voted on an item via email at the instigation of Ellen Salome Riotto. This is so freaking illegal, so freaking contrary to the very essence of the Brown Act, that I’m utterly astonished that it happened. And yet it does seem to be a genuine error rather than malfeasance.
The sad irony is that Ellen Salome Riotto explicitly arranged this illegal vote in order to avoid violating the Brown Act’s mandates about teleconferencing. And that she seemed to think that it would be OK because it was justified by the BID’s bylaws, as if state law could be nullified by some two-bit corporation unilaterally announcing that they weren’t subject to it. The whole situation would be tragic if these careless, ignorant people weren’t granted so much public trust.
And the final violation is just stunning in its scope and its audacity. The Brown Act clearly states that committees must also follow open meeting requirements.4 The South Park BID, however, has an executive committee which doesn’t post agendas, meets in secret, and discusses, deliberates, and takes action via email, by phone, and at their secret meetings. It’d be easier to list the parts of the Brown Act that this doesn’t violate!
Secret actions by a public agency like the BID are untenable. This is how democracy dies, so I can’t allow it to continue. And in this case Ellen Salome Riotto has ignored my questions about the violations. Hence the necessity of the demand letter. Turn the page for transcriptions, links to the evidence and code sections, and maybe even some more of my moralistic ranting!
Continue reading Latest And Most Ambitious Episode In Our Brown Act Enforcement Project Targets South Park BID For Three Violations — Requiring Sign-In To Attend Meeting — Voting By Email — And Most Egregious Of All — Maintaining A Standing Committee Which Meets Only In Secret — Never Posts Agendas — Never Announces Meetings To Public — Votes By Email Regularly — This Is About The Worst Ongoing Brown Act Violation I Have Ever Seen Among BIDs!