Oops, she did it again. Claudia Alvarez Violating the Brown Act That is.

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The California Attorney General in 2003 put out this handy-dandy guide for elected officials to assist them in following the Brown Act, California’s Open Meetings Law. The guide reminds me of the Robert Fulghum book All I really needed to know I learned in kindergarten. You see, all I really needed to know about how to live and breathe when dealing with local government I learned in the Brown Act. The Attorney General’s helpful guide reminds me what those lessons are from time to time when I get lost. It doesn’t really reflect wisdom from the top of the graduate-school mountain, rather it reminds me what I learned in the sandpile at Sunday School. For example:

When a member of the public testifies before a legislative body, the body may not prohibit the individual from criticizing the policies, procedures, programs or services of the agency or the acts or omissions of the legislative body. (§ 54954.3(c).) This provision does not confer on members of the public any privilege or protection not otherwise provided by law. In sandpile speak  Shut Up! when other people have something to say.

Public meetings of governmental bodies have been found to be limited public fora. As such, members of the public have broad constitutional rights to comment on any subject relating to the business of the governmental body. Any attempt to restrict the content of such speech must be narrowly tailored to effectuate a compelling state interest. Specifically, the courts found that policies that prohibited members of the public from criticizing school district employees were unconstitutional. (Leventhal v. Vista Unified School Dist. (1997) 973 F.Supp. 951; Baca v. Moreno Valley Unified School Dist. (1996) 936 F.Supp. 719.) These decisions found that prohibiting critical comments was a form of viewpoint discrimination, and that such a prohibition promoted discussion artificially geared toward praising (and maintaining) the status quo, thereby foreclosing meaningful public dialogue. In sandpile speak  Shut Up! let other people have their say.

This portion of the Brown Act is probably the most  simple for a government body to follow. Written in plain language as clear as the first word we learned as children in those Dick-and-Jane books the biggest word of all LOOK. Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.

It really ticks me off when I have to criticize Democrats for breaking the same rules I keep locking horns with Republicans over. This stuff is really getting old.

In the clip at the top of this post, from the public comment portion of the Santa Ana City Council meeting on August 2, 2010, you have Mayor Pulido letting a rogue Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez run public comment, along with the entire purpose of the Brown Act (Accountability) into the ground while he is sitting there playing a fiddle or something. Brazenly, Claudia Alvarez says to the speaker Mr. Albert Castillo, 

Claudia Alvarez

“I am going to request that your microphone be turned off; And I am speaking now,even though our Mayor is sitting here, because you are personally attacking him. We all know that you’re supporting a contender that is running for mayorship that is not this mayor. I am not stopping you from freedom of speech, I’m stopping you from personal attacks; Because next thing you know you are going to start talking to him saying that he is self interested.”

At this point Mr. Castillo interrupts Councilwoman Alvarez saying that she “is wasting his time” (the time speakers are allowed to speak during public comment). The response from Councilwoman Alvarez is simply unconsionable for a Deputy District Attorney to issue in a public forum; “Well you’re wasting all of ours with your personal attacks.” 

To top it off you have Councilman Vince Sarmiento, the other Attorney on the Council admitted publicly that the reason the speaker is being cut off is because his comments are critical of a colleague on the Council, or in his view inaccurate. Councilman Sarmiento tries to couch his words with “no one is trying to cut, or limit your First Amendment right to speak, but if you’re doing it in a way that is offensive then that’s something that’s going to downgrade our discussion completely.” Castillo interjects, “if it’s offensive it’s because it’s a fact.” At this point Mayor Pulido stops fiddling and tries to end the back and forth by saying “well either way we’re out of time” and calls the next speaker.

It should be noted that even with a significantly liberal calculation of the time Mr. Castillo was actually permitted to speak uninterrupted, he did not get close to his alotted 3 minutes of time to speak. None of the reasons given by Councilmembers Alvarez and Sarmiento or Mayor Pulido, are lawful reasons to cut off public comment.

Watch it for yourself at the top of the page.

One final note to the elected members of the Santa Ana City Council; If you can’t handle a little public criticism in the Council chambers, then you’re in the wrong fracking business.

  12 comments for “Oops, she did it again. Claudia Alvarez Violating the Brown Act That is.

  1. art lomeli
    August 10, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    The council has adopted a code of ethics that seems to be for the purpose of unaccountability.

    They have morphed the code of ethics to protect themselves from criticism. At the same time they do not follow the code as evident in their attacks against Benavides and their present and past appointed commissioners….Tish Leon, the Strouds, Lupe Moreno and others.

    In short they are using the code of ethics to exclude themselves from accountability while holding those they want to harm particularly accountable.

    Worst is that the morphing of the code of ethics is a tool the council is using to violate the Brown Act and violate Santa Ana resident’s right to free speech.

    Attacks , criticism and accountability towards government is protected by the Brown Act.

    Why is the city attorney not correcting this crime against the Santa Ana residents by the Mayor and the city council?

    The Brown Act supersedes the councils interpretation of the their code of ethics ….not holding them accountable by violating free speech when the public is critical of them and naming them when doing so.

    THIS IS ONE REASON WHY A CHANGE IS NEEDED IN THE LEADERSHIP (MAYOR)OF THE CITY.

  2. Steve
    August 10, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    I’d put her right up there with Senator Mitch McConnell when it comes to her unpleasant, humorless disposition.

  3. One Who Knows
    August 10, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Did this woman get her law degree from the same unaccredited college as Orly Taitz? It’s unconscionable that an attorney of Claudia’s caliber can’t even follow, comprehend, or adhere to the rule of law.

    Pfft, and she says she puts criminals behind bars. Maybe that’s where she needs to put herself.

  4. Al Simmons
    August 10, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Wow! Is this for real? She really did that?

    This certainly looks to be a blatant violation of not only the Brown act, but also the (laughable) “ethics clause” the council is supposed to abide by.
    It’s hypocritical for Claudia Alvarez to complain about personal attacks one minute, and then turn around and launch a personal attack on her colleague David Benavides, and a member of the public, Lupe Moreno. I guess the rules apply to everybody but her?

    How can she be stopped from doing this? It’s not the first time she interrupted Mr. Castillo, and the council clearly short-changed his time.
    It’s probably too much to expect that her boss Tony Rackaukas would be any help here, filing the Brown Act violation charges. Isn’t there another agency that oversees violations like this?

  5. One Who Knows
    August 10, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    “Isn’t there another agency that oversees violations like this?”

    The Feds.

    Otherwise, try to find a decent, ethical attorney that Claudia hasn’t slept with to take the case.

  6. jose s.
    August 10, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    unreal! alvarez just seems to get worse every meeting it sickens me to see what she’s become. i dont care what anybody says our entire council is just useless. i hope mr. castillo comes back.

  7. Dan Chmielewski
    August 11, 2010 at 7:44 am

    In Irvine, the council cannot address or interrupt the public during public comments unless the person goes over their three minutes. The clock should have stopped here when she clearly took away from his time.

  8. Steve
    August 11, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Alvarez is a Pulido puppet.

  9. art lomeli
    August 11, 2010 at 11:13 am

    In addition to the violation of the Brown Act the council seems to selectively return attacks on those they wish to censor when speaking during public comments.

    In the video Castillo gets lectured about attacking the mayor. Castillo has the right to state his opinion, which is protected by the Brown Act.Under the same breath Castillo gets attacked for his political affiliation in the Mayoral race.

    The council in the video are judges making decisions about the public commenting being in their opinion facts or not.

    THIS IS A THIRD WORLD FORM OF GOVERNMENT!!!!!!!!!

    We now also have political censorship by the council. That is you will get different treatment based on who you support politically when speaking about issues to the council that are not political but rather governmental.

    The council are there to serve the public …they are the public’s employees. Imagine a employer getting treated in this manner by their employees. They are not the boss. The public that elected them are the boss.

    THE CITY RESIDENTS NEED TO TAKE OWNERSHIP OF THEIR CITY. FIRE THE EMPLOYEES THAT DO NOT LISTEN AND AND DO NOT WORK FOR THEM.

  10. al
    August 16, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object.
    - Thomas Jefferson

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