As I picked up my copy of the Pasadena Star News this past Wednesday and read the paper my eye quickly focused on the article reporting that the LA County Board of Supervisors (in closed session) decided to appoint Santos Kreimann (a veteran county employee) as the temporary LA County Assessor while John Noguez went on indefinite paid leave. Noguez’s leave was prompted by an investigation by the LA County District Attorney about allegations that Noguez had taken money in return for reassessing, usually down, certain individuals’ properties.
To add to the confusion of what was being discussed at the June 19th meeting was the following recommendation from Supervisor Antonovich – “Direct County
Counsel to prepare a resolution and ballot question calling for an advisory vote, to be consolidated with the November General Election, that would ask the voters of Los Angeles County if the California Constitution and the County Charter should be amended to make the Los Angeles County Assessor an appointive instead of an elective office; and if a substantial number of the voters who vote in the advisory election support the amendments, direct the County’s Legislative Advocates in Sacramento to seek a sponsor in the State Legislature to propose a Statewide Constitutional amendment. (Continued from meeting of 5-29-12) (12-2345)”. This item was postponed for two more weeks and in the meantime the board went into closed session mid-meeting to discuss item CS-5 – “DEPARTMENT HEAD PERFORMANCE EVALUATIONS (Government Code Section 54957) Department Head performance evaluations (11-1977)”.
Supervisor Yaroslavsky called this closed session discussion shortly after the supervisors handed out their various acknowledgements and awards. This left the numerous members of the public that had come to address the board twiddling their thumbs for over an hour and a half while the board met in private. At the end of their closed session they returned to open session but failed to announce any actions taken during their closed session to the members of the public waiting in the boardroom. They did however have time to hold a press conference (when they found the time to do this who knows) to announce their appointment of Kreimann.
I see two issues (well actually three) with the actions taken by the board on June 19th. First, though the Brown Act does allow the board to hold closed sessions it does so with the following caveats. First, the description of the item must be written so that a reasonable person can deduce that the item being held for closed session might be of interest to them. Second, the board must announce any actions taken during said closed sessions. CS-5 as described leads a reasonable person to believe that department head evaluations/performances are to be discussed, not the appointment of a temporary department head. And when you through in the fact that Item 7 (an item about the County Assessor position had been postponed for two weeks) one might not have drawn the conclusion that the appointment of a County Assessor was the subject of CS-5. It’s highly unlikely that anyone reviewing the agenda would’ve had a clue that the temporary appointment of such a critical and key county position was set to be addressed.
In fact I can think of several people who might’ve had something to say about the appointment of Kreimann – of course their opinion would’ve in all likelihood hardly swayed the Supervisors decision since history has taught the members of the public that in nearly all cases the Supervisors have made their minds up long before the publically held meeting.
The other possible violation was what I believe was a failure of the board to announce the action taken during closed session. Yes, I know they held a press conference, but I believe that failed to meet the burden based on the simple fact that they held a mid-meeting closed session, thus they should’ve announced their decision to appoint Kreimann at the opening of the second part of the meeting, after all they’d left the public waiting for over an hour and a half – this was the least they could’ve done and it would had been the respectful thing to do and it would’ve given the opportunity to the public to speak to bring to the board’s attention that they had in all probability violated the Brown Act.
So did the Board of Supervisors violate the Brown Act, again? If the Board of Supervisors has indeed violated the Brown Act will the Los Angeles County District Attorney take any action? Inquiring minds would like to know?