The Santa Ana City Council meeting, held at the historic Yost Theater last night, failed to produce much in the way of fireworks. As expected Councilwoman Michelle Martinez’s Commissioner Tish Leon was removed from the Parks and Recreation Commission on a 6-1 vote, with Councilman Benavides voting no. And while that act of political retribution was somewhat entertaining, it played out more like a the ancient Roman spectacle of spectators cheering at a summary execution â€” albeit with less than half a dozen people standing to applaud when the deed was done.
The Public Comment portion of the meeting went smoothly, with Mayor Pro Tem Alvarez sitting smugly, and silently, next to Mayor Pulido managing to notÂ cut offÂ any speakers this time. After all the speakers had finished, Alvarez took to opportunity to address her actions at the previous meeting by claiming, without any apology,Â that she had not prevented Albert Castillo from speaking at the August 2ndÂ meeting, that he was given his three minutes, and he was warned three times. Then in a spectacular display of contradiction, she made a motion to recognize Mr. Castillo, who was sitting in the audience but had not signed up to make public comment, and let him speak for three minutes promising not to interrupt him.
The motion by Ms. Alvarez, then allowed the council the opportunity to discuss the action they had taken at the prior meeting to cut off the microphone on Mr. Castillo. Councilman Benavides apologized for his failure to stand up for Mr. Castillo’s right to speak at theÂ previous meeting saying that his First Amendment rights never should have been violated. Councilman Sarmiento commented how he had spoken to Mr. Castillo the day after the meeting to explain his actions, and had invited him to come back and address the council uninterrupted. Sarmiento also said that he had engaged in a number of conversations with the City Attorney since that meeting in an effort to move him to provide more clarification of the application of the Brown Act in relation to the city policy for speaker conduct. He stated that he wanted to cure the problem. If I had the opportunity, I would have asked Sarmiento, why he didn’t take the initiative to speak to the City Attorney back in April, when Alvarez did the same thing?
Interesting, the term “cure” is exactly the legal term used when a government body is asked to correct a failure to follow the Brown Act. At any rate, Mr. Castillo was having nothing of the show, and refused to comment, in fact he did not even acknowledge the offer to speak. The motion did pass 7-0.
Note to the City Council: One of the key components to correcting and “curing” a violation of the Brown Act, in particular one that you have repeated countless times, is to admit you actually made a mistake and then make a good faith effort to prevent future violations of the law. Claudia Alvarez’s failure to even recognize, much less apologize, for her conduct negates the grand show that you put on. Sorry nothing less than a full apology from the entire council, and a clear promise to correct the behavior and prevent it from happening in the future will work in this case. Skirting the Brown Act by making an off agenda motion to let someoneÂ speak, so that you canÂ discuss the matter doesn’t quite cut it here.
If you really want to sincerely address this issue, put a Resolution of Apology to Mr. Castillo and the citizens of Santa Ana for your conduct, and outline steps you intend to take to prevent such violations from happening. Make the resolution in a fully televised meeting of the Council, not an off site “Study Session” that is broadcast later and only once.