City Manager evaluation, new “Hostage Negotiation” vehicle & new Vice Mayor also on agenda
Update: I have heard back from City Attorney Richard Pio Roda. He says that the City does not believe that the potential plaintiffs in the case that will be discussed in closed session are aware of the facts and circumstances that will enable their lawsuit. He confirmed that the case in question did not involve “an accident, disaster, incident, or transaction”, for example, a police shooting, where the potential plaintiff is aware that they have been harmed.
The first City Council meeting of the year will be this Monday, January 5th. It will include new Mayor Pauline Cutter and new Councilmembers Deborah Cox (Dist 1), Lee Thomas (Dist 3) and Corina Lopez (Dist 5). Councilmembers Ursula Reed (Dist 2) and Jim Prola (Dist 6) have two more years to go before being termed out while Councilmember Benny Lee (Dist 4) is two years into his first term.
The Council Agenda for this Monday is very light and includes 2 closed session items (those that are discussed without the public being present). It also includes this Council’s first Brown Act violation.
The Brown Act allows a City Council to discuss very few issues in closed session. One of those is pending litigation against the City (CA Gov code 54956.9), including situations where “based on existing facts and circumstances, there is a significant exposure to litigation against the [City]” (54956.9(d)(2)). However, the Brown Act also requires that if the “facts and circumstances … that might result in litigation against the [City] … are known to a potential plaintiff … [these] shall be publicly stated on the agenda or announced“ (54956.9(e)(2)). Under former Mayor Stephen Cassidy, the Council almost invariably broke this section of the law, and the pattern seems to be set to continue under Mayor Pauline Cutter. However, she’s been advised of the potential violation and she could choose to cure the situation by announcing the facts and circumstances of the potential litigation during Monday’s meeting.
The law does not require that the City announce such “facts and circumstances” if these are not known to the plaintiff, but such situations are rare. For example, the family of the woman who was shot to death by the San Leandro Police Department less than a month ago, is not only aware of the fact that she was killed, but they have retained an attorney. If the City Council will be discussing this case in closed session – and if they are not, they definitely should be -, there is no legal reason whatsoever for them to not disclose such fact.
According to the Agenda, the City Council will also meet in closed session to conduct the City Manager‘s evaluation, though given that three of the seven members of the Council have never worked with the City Manager before, it’s difficult to see how they’d be able to conduct and independent evaluation of his performance.
Open session items of interest include:
– The vote for a new Vice-Mayor
– Allocation of $71K (up from $60K) for the SLPD to get a new “hostage negotiation” vehicle. This is in addition to the paramilitary armored vehicle that the SLPD wants the City to acquire.
– Presentation from Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments, a Fremont-based organization that works with victims of domestic violence.