How Will We Know - Is the Elk Grove City Council pushing the envelope with the Brown Act on Houston junket?

Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen (left) and her council members Pat Hume (second right) and Kevin Spease on a taxpayer funded fact-finding...

Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen (left) and her council members Pat Hume (second right) and Kevin Spease on a taxpayer funded fact-finding mission in Houston. | 


One of Whitney Houston's hits in the 1980s was How Will I Know. Based on pictures posted on social media today, Elk Grove citizens might ask the Mayor and City Council, How Will We Know you are not breaking the law?

While the late great Whitney was questioning her significant other's love, Elk Grove citizens might ask, how will we ever know if Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen and her two subordinate council members, Pat Hume and Kevin Spease, are not conducting official business during a zoo fact-finding trip to Houston?

Postings on social media show the mayor and her two council members during what is described as a visit to the Houston Zoo, presumably on a fact-finding mission. Elk Grove is currently negotiating a relocation of the Sacramento Zoo to the city's Southeast Policy Area.  

Curious if the trio are violating the Brown Act, the law governing meetings in California, we inquired to Elk Grove City Manager Jason Behrmann if the mission was a taxpayer-funded trip and if it violated tenets of the law. Two council members and their mayor are travelling out of state together which is a quorum to set policy, or at a minimum conduct a serial meeting.  

Behrman responded that it was a taxpayer-funded trip, and no, their journey does not breach the Brown Act. 

Behrmann said in an email, "They are able to attend these types of trips, much like cap to cap or even a local event like a metro chamber event in Sac. They are prohibited from discussing city business on these trip[sic] if all three of them are participating in the discussion. In this case, we are learning and researching zoo operations, habitats etc but they couldn’t discuss strategies or elements of a future agreement with the Sacramento Zoo that might come before the council at a future date."

We'll rely on Behrmann's analysis on the law, but there is a nagging question. To paraphrase Whitney again, how do we know they are not discussing city business? Can we trust that the mayor and her two subordinates are under no circumstance discussing city business? 

Furthermore if not city business, how do we know that Singh-Allen, Hume, and Spease are not traveling on taxpayers' money to develop strategies to get Hume elected to the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors? Spease and Hume are Republicans and would like nothing more than having a majority GOP on the Board of Supervisors, and Singh-Allen, who has endorsed Hume over former ally and fellow Democrat Jaclyn Moreno, would undoubtedly like a partner on the Board of Supervisors to help grease the wheels for zoo funding with some of that ARPA money headed to the county? 

Unfortunately, we will never know the real discussions in Houston between Singh-Allen and her council members. We have to say it is surprising how quickly the four council member have submitted themselves to Madame Mayor, but that is a topic for another day.   

Nonetheless, we'll give the trio benefit of the doubt - after all, the five potted plants on the Elk Grove City Council lack that sort of creativity. Still, why risk the appearance of impropriety that only breeds further mistrust in politicians in this post-Trump-era? 

We'll be waiting to see what the taxpayers got for their money when the three report their activities at next Wednesday's city council meeting. Regardless, taking a secluded trip that is not part of a larger delegation like the annual Metro Chamber of Commerce's Cap to Cap, or as far as we can tell accompanied by city staff, is a terrible decision by Singh-Allen and her two subordinates.  

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5 comments

D.J. Blutarsky said...

Nuthin' to get excited about...our Forefathers fully envisioned the role of government is to get involved in real estate development and business subsidies! Ironically, the Last time a Mayor went to Texas was when Gary Davis was going to "light a fire" under Howard Hughes to build our mall. How'd that work out?

Capt. Benjamin Willard said...

Perhaps Mr. Hobbs should have been asked the question although he too would have like covered for the council members.

The Brown Act states the following in section 54952.2:

"'meeting' means any congregation of a majority of the members of a legislative body at the same time and location, including teleconference location as permitted by Section 54953, to hear, discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body."

There were a majority of the members at the same location at the same time, and if they were not there to discuss operations of that zoo, and how it might apply to a possible Elk Grove zoo, which the city has on-going negotiations, what were they doing there?

Even if this trip was not within legal parameters, Mr. Hobbs and the city's executive staff knows the general public does not have funding to pursue legal remedies.

White Hat said...

I recall Steve Ly made quite a few trips out of town and out of state supposedly for city business. hmmmmmm......

Eye on Elk Grove said...

What a crock! Do they have us believe that BSA, Hume and Spease in walking around the Houston Zoo or having drinks at the hotel bar, that BSA didn’t say to her two Council bobbleheads, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a zoo like this in Elk Grove?” And right on cue, the two Mayor’s boys nodded their heads in agreement. Hello Ralph M. Brown that is a serial meeting!

And we taxpayers are paying for this little jaunt as well as this is official city business. Different from Cap to Cap when they are on difference teams. The three here are adjoined at the hip!

Come on Jason Behrmann! What an insult our intelligence!

And where is the $300K a year man on this issue, City Attorney Jon Hobbs? His salary sure buys a lot of silence!

Renegade said...

Yeah, this trip certainly doesn't pass the smell test or the eye test. It seems like a blatant abuse of the principles established by the Brown Act.
Hard to believe that our City Clerk, City Attorney and Pat Hume, all who are familiar with the Brown Act allowed this to happen. The mayor and Councilman Spease should be aware of these rules, but are relatively new to this stage.

City Hall and city leaders better wake up, it's obvious you're all asleep at the wheel, or worse, just don't care.

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