Giving the Brown Act the Finger - Like other authoritarian politicians, the Elk Grove Mayor & City Council are demolishing democracy

Earlier this week, EGN podcast contributor Lynn Wheat released her newest edition, which she called "Finally, proof that Elk Grove City Council decisions are made beforehand."

We urge you to listen to her podcast, which lays out objective evidence that decisions made by our city council and city staff are determined before they are on the council meeting agendas. The city council votes made in public are just a formality for decisions already set in motion.

Ms. Wheat mentioned one element in her podcast that we will expand on. It was the implications this and other pre-determined decisions had in the context of the Ralph M. Brown Act. 

Adopted in 1951, the act dictates how California government meetings are conducted. Broadly speaking, it says decisions must be deliberated and decided on in the public's face.

To bolster that, it forbids hidden meetings and communication about specific items that will be determined in the open between elected representatives before a public hearing. These communications can be either so-called serial or daisy chain meetings.   

This publication from Sacramento County explains the Brown Act and what constitutes a serial meeting.

Ms. Wheat's objective evidence centered on a consent calendar item and the release of the city's bi-monthly newsletter. The item on the June 26 consent calendar had not been approved, but magically, the change was communicated. The calendar was produced and printed weeks before the June 26 city council meeting.

More egregious was the process for approving the $300 million Sacramento Zoo relocation project, which was first announced in September 2021. When it was announced, its approval was a foregone conclusion, but Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen and her city councilmen had to go through the motions.

The first evidence was when Mayor Singh-Allen and her city councilmen and staff entourage traveled to the Houston Zoo. In a city council meeting, Councilman Kevin Spease openly admitted to talking about the zoo while on the junket.

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Then, the granddaddy of Brown Act violations came from Vice Mayor Rod Brewer. During the May 8 city council meeting, ironically, Spease voiced what Brewer called last-minute objections.

As seen in the video, Brewer demonstrated that he had talked with his city council colleague about the matter in private before the meeting. Why else would he say he was "pissed" that this was the first time he heard Spease's concerns.

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Brewer's remarks were so egregious that even his mentor, Mayor Singh-Allen, had to interrupt, noting Brown Act concerns. Thanks to Brewer, we know that city council decisions about the $300 million taxpayer-funded zoo were made well before this meeting.

For longtime city council observers, this was not surprising. It was a confirmation Mayor Singh-Allen, the city council, the Sacramento Zoological Society, and city staff were thumbing their noses at the Brown Act and, in the process, along with other authoritarian politicians of great stature, working to demolish democracy. 

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1 comment

Steve L said...

Yes, the council seems to be devoid of ethics and they really don’t seem to be concerned about people knowing about the violations. This is why constant change needs to be exercised on the dais. We need no one getting too comfortable and complacent. Let’s hope some concerned and moralistic citizens step up to run for the positions up for reelection.

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