Santa Ana’s Mayor Pulido want’s everyone to know your address before you can speak

Mayor Miguel Pulido - Photo: Chris Prevatt/LiberalOC

I asked on February 23rd; What’s it going to take to get Santa Ana to follow the open meeting laws? It wasn’t meant as a rhetorical question, but it’s turning out that way. At the April 4th meeting of the Santa Ana City Council, Mayor Miguel Pulido managed to run off the beaten path and started requiring people to state their addresses before the cameras in order to deliver public comment.

I’m guessing that his sudden urge for such information was because a number of people had shown up to protest Elephant Rides at the Santa Ana Zoo, and he presumed that most of the speakers didn’t live in the city. Not that matters when it comes to public comment. Because I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt I sent him an email.

The new City Attorney Joe Straka responded for Mayor Pulido and it seems that he has about as much of a clue about the Brown Act as former City Attorney Joe Fletcher had. None. So I checked with an expert, Terry Francke General Counsel of Californians Aware.

Terry pointed out to me that in his opinion, “the Brown Act requires that the agenda for local government bodies’ meetings provide an opportunity for members of the public to address a body on matters subject to its authority, and that regulations of the opportunity to speak be “reasonable.”  Disclosure of one’s address cannot reasonably be made a mandatory precondition to one’s right to address the body.

“Since the right to anonymous attendance at a meeting is so comprehensively and emphatically established in Government Code Section 54953.3, and since the right to anonymous political speech has been consistently affirmed in US Supreme Court decisions under the First Amendment (e.g. Talley v. California (1960) and McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission (1995)), making self-identification a mandatory precondition of speech in a public meeting is statutorily and constitutionally impermissible without a compelling state interest, which is absent here,” Francke said.

The bottom line here is that a person who wishes to speak before a City Council, or any government body, cannot be required to disclose his or her home address publicly as a mandatory precondition. Such a requirement places them at personal risk of harassment, intimidation, or retaliation.

Mayor Pulido has been around for a while. He knows this stuff. What was he thinking?

Below is my correspondence with Mayor Pulido and City Attorney Joe Straka on the matter.

Mayor Pulido,

A Santa Ana resident called to my attention what appears to be a possible violation of the Brown Act that occurred at the April 4, 2011 meeting of the Santa Ana City Council.

You announced to those in attendance at the start of public comment and at several times during public comment that those addressing the Council must state their name and address for the record.

Such a requirement is in violation of Government Code 54953.3: “A member of the public shall not be required… to register his or her name, or provide other information”…

I therefore request an explanation of why such a requirement was enforced at the April 4, 2011 meeting? Further, how do you plan to cure this violation and prevent such violations from occurring in the future?

I plan to report on this matter soon, so a response from you, the City Attorney, or the City Clerk on Friday, April 8, 2011 would be greatly appreciated so that I can reflect your response in my story.

Regards,

Chris Prevatt
TheLiberalOC

Santa Ana Ciy Hall

Santa Ana City Hall, Photo: Chris Prevatt

City Attorney Joe Straka responded on Friday evening:

Dear Mr. Prevatt,

I have reviewed your email from last evening.  I disagree that any potential violation of the Brown Act occurred relative to the public comments portion of the city council meeting  of April 4, 2011.  I believe that your citation of Government Code section 54953.3 omits an important section of the statute relevant to the facts at hand.  It also appears that you fail to consider other provisions of the Brown Act which give cities authority to adopt reasonable rules of decorum. 

The complete text of the relevant portion of section 54953.3 states as follows: 

“A member of the public shall not be required, as a condition to attendance at a meeting of a legislative body of a local agency, to register his or her name, to provide other information, to complete a questionnaire, or otherwise to fulfill any condition precedent to his or her attendance.

It is clear that the statute precludes the requirement that an individual register his or her name “as a condition to attendance” or “a condition precedent to his or her attendance” at a meeting of the legislative body of a local agency.  At no time was such a requirement imposed during the council meeting of April 4, 2011.

Additionally, although not specifically addressed by the Brown Act, the “Request to Speak” form that persons who desire to address the council are asked to complete clearly states  that “Providing the following information is strictly voluntary.”  Identification of the speaker is included in that voluntary information. 

Moreover, nowhere in the Brown Act does the legislature prohibit the public agency from requesting that a speaker provide identifying information, which is all that occurred at the council meeting.   In fact, Government Code section 54954.3, subsection (b), allows a local agency to adopt reasonable regulations for the conduct of public comment, including, but not limited to, regulations limiting the total of amount of time allocated for public testimony on particular issues and for each individual speaker.  Legislative bodies throughout the State do in fact make requests similar to that made by the Mayor of persons during the public comment portion of their meetings.  

I hope the above satisfactorily addresses your concerns.  I do appreciate your inquiry.  Please feel free to contact me should you desire to further discuss this matter.

Joe Straka
Interim City Attorney
City of Santa Ana

My Response to Straka

Mr. Straka,

Thank you for getting back to me. If the collection of the name and address on the speakers form is voluntary, then certainly the collection of that information from the speaker would be equally voluntary.

Mayor Pulido however requested name and address from the speakers on numerous occasions. When one speaker objected, he insisted that they had to provide the information since they had not filled it in on the card. Disclosure of your name and address, publicly on live TV, as a requirement for speaking before elected officials, is neither an allowable or reasonable regulation of public comment under the Brown Act. If you require someone to record their name and address to speak at a meeting you are also requiring them to provide that information as a condition of attendance.

It is my understanding that a member of the public may identify themselves as “Anonymous” and be able to speak before a government entity during public comment. A person cannot be anonymous if he or she is also required to state their name and address when speaking. The fact that the chairman of the meeting allowed some people to state their city of residence, even thought he requested their address, does not mitigate the fact that as the chair he directed speakers that they had to provide information that, as indicated by the speakers card, is purely voluntary.

I respectfully suggest that you may wish to reconsider your position.

Chris Prevatt
TheLiberalOC

Mr. Straka,

I have a copy of the speaker instructions on the speaker card rev(6-09) If there is a more recent version I would like a copy please. In reviewing the version I have several  things are clearly apparent. If the provision of name and address is purely voluntary, that only the name will appear in the minutes, and nowhere on the form does it say that the speaker will be required to provide the voluntary information in public and on video tape. The card establishes that the speaker is to follow the instructions of the chair and maintain the decorum of the meeting.

So I have to ask for further clarification of what the city’s definition of voluntary provision of Name and Address is? On the one hand the card states it is voluntary yet, in practice at the April 4th meeting, such information was required to be stated “publicly and for the record.” At no time were speakers told that compliance with the Mayor’s instruction to provide address was voluntary.

Chris Prevatt

I’ve heard nothing further from Mr. Straka or anyone else at the city as of Monday evening.

“Not holding my breath.”

  17 comments for “Santa Ana’s Mayor Pulido want’s everyone to know your address before you can speak

  1. junior
    April 12, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business.

    It is the intent of the law that their actions be
    taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly. The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the
    instruments they have created.

    The above statements are the preamble to the Brown Act. This is the spirit of the Act, which all public agencies should live up to.

  2. Art Pendejo
    April 12, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    How dare you Junior. Miguel Pulido is the greatest human being in human history. Greater than Jesus Christ himself. I think he is so great and hope he stays mayor for ever and ever. I even wished death on him, so he could rise from it in three days and push Jesus off of the right hand of God, because that is where Mayor Pulido belongs. In fact, I think he should BE GOD. Thanks for the $5,000 Pulido.

    • Society of Safety Engineers
      April 13, 2011 at 12:28 pm

      Is this the same Art Pedroza who calls himself a safety consultant? Is this the same Art Pedroza who thought it was funny to advocate for sex between adults and small children on websites he owned?

  3. April 13, 2011 at 7:06 am

    As one of the speakers at that city council meeting who was forced to provide my home address, I thought it was a little weird at the time and now find it even weirder. However, we know Mayor Pulido’s home address too, and although I won’t post it here, if you care about animal suffering, I hope you’ll join Orange County People for Animals the next time we educate the mayor’s household and neighbors about what a hypocrite this so-called “vegetarian” is.

    Learn more here: http://www.meetup.com/OCPAUSA/.

  4. Art Pendejo
    April 13, 2011 at 9:06 am

    His address is 615 W. Santa Clara St. Santa Ana, CA 92703
    He is the mayor, it is public information. EAT MEAT! VIVA BIRRIA!

  5. junior
    April 13, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    If it is important, for some reason, for the City of Santa Ana to know the address of Public Comment speakers – then the City should have a specific stated policy to that effect. The whim of the mayor is not good enough.

  6. junior
    April 13, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    The SA attorney said:
    “.. nowhere in the Brown Act does the legislature prohibit the public agency from requesting that a speaker provide identifying information ..”

    A couple of things on this particular comment:
    1. The public agency has not requested speaker identification or address information. Only his “Highness” the mayor has asked – he is not the agency – he is only one member of the agency. His Imperiousness cannot act for the agency, although he believes that he may do so.

    2. Nowhere in the Brown Act, or any other regulation, REQUIRES the speaker to identify him or her self.

  7. Art Pedroza=sellout
    April 13, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    How pathetic that Art Pedroza went from shouting Revolution to be being the Mayor’s personal bitch. And he sold his soul and his people out for little more than $5000.

  8. Whatever Happened To
    April 13, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    Whatever happened to Chris Leo and Cynthia Contreras?

  9. Northcountystorm
    April 14, 2011 at 12:08 am

    First, please clean out the comments about Pedroza which attempt to hijack the thread and detract from the content..

    Second, the desire to obtain name and address is not just something from the Mayor but it is on the official form provided for public comment.

    Third, nothing in the Brown Act prohibits a city or public agency from requesting the name and address of an individual as long as it is clear that this is voluntary. You wouldn’t know that in reading the post until the City Attorney responded.

    Fourth, most agencies DO ask this question. Agencies are interested whether the comments are being made by residents or property owners in the jurisdiction. This is a valid are of inquiry for a public agency. A liberal interpretation of the Brown Act(and it should be interpreted liberally)would most likely find a refusal to allow someone to speak who declines to provide the personal infromation would be a violation of the Act. In the clash of interests, Brown Act wins.

    Fifth, the Mayor should simply read off the information from the speaker request sheet and if its blank note that for the record. Except in situations where fear for the speakers safety is obvious from the comments, most anonymous speakers or speakers who refuse to give addresses will be given little weight by the council or board. if he refused to allow a member of the public to speak unless they divulged their name and address he most likely violated the Brown Act.

    Finally, can you tally up the articles over the past 2 years where the LOC has been critical of Pulido and compare that to the number of articles which have not been critical of Pulido but have praised him.I know he leans with his chin but inquiring minds would like a tally.

    p.s. Do you think the Mayor will show up at your birthday party?

    • Art Pendejo
      April 14, 2011 at 8:00 am

      Thank you NorthCountyStorm for defending Miguelito. Did he and Dennis pay you $5,150 too? That’s how much I got for changing all my views and writing postive coverage of him and even censor my own writers. Miguel should have paid Long Beach resident Chris Prevatt as well.

  10. junior
    April 14, 2011 at 7:10 am

    Northcountydrizzle,

    First, the jabs at Pedroza are not an attempt to hijack the comment thread. While somewhat distracting from the content,, they are just razzing the readers and myself.

    Second, the speaker card you refer to states that providing the information is voluntary on the sign-in card. The mayors demand for identification is a separate instance and it is wrong because it leads the speaker to believe that they must acquiesce to the mayor’s demand when in fact no public agency has required this information be provided. These demands for speaker identification are being made at the whim of the mayor. He is one member of the public agency – he is not THE public agency.

    Third, you said: “.. nothing in the Brown Act prohibits a city or public agency from requesting the name and address of an individual as long as it is clear that this is voluntary.” Pulido’s demands for speaker identification were stated as requirements for speaking and were not specified as voluntary.

    Fourth, so what if most agencies ask this question? They probably ask it in the proper manner – the mayor of Santa Ana demands this information in violation of both the letter and the spirit of the Brown Act.

    Fifth, you said: “.. if he (the mayor) refused to allow a member of the public to speak unless they divulged their name and address he most likely violated the Brown Act.” What you are saying here is – that if a speaker is not knowledgeable of the requirements of the Brown Act, that it is permissible for the mayor to take advantage of that fact and make his imperious demands.

    Finally, mr. northcountydrizzle – You sound like an attorney, full of obfuscation and misdirection, are your initials VS?

    PS: I wouldn’t invite the mayor to my birthday party. Actually, the mayor sent a Facebook “friend” request to me. I declined, in a respectful manner.

  11. Northcountycarpetbagger?
    April 14, 2011 at 9:27 am

    I also find Northcountystorms defense of Mayor Pulido curious and thought the same thing about Vince Sarmiento. Evidence has arisen that Councilman Sarmiento may actually live in Orange Park Acres so the Northcountystorm moniker would be accurate as would Northcountycarpetbagger.

  12. Northcountystorm
    April 14, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Chris–While I enjoyed your post, the comment section here looks more like OJ(apologies to Vern) than LOC. Peewee, another Pedroza obsessor and a tin foil brigade member. Funny.
    You’re right, Pulido shouldn’t have said people must give their name and address. I think he’s entitled to ask but not insist or say they must. Easier to just use the information cards which demonstrate its a city policy, not just the mayors, to want the information. Some cities and districts, with little if any prior Brown Act problems, might mistakingly move from asking to insisting on the information. But thanks to you, the entire city attorney’s office in Santa Ana should be Brown Act experts by now and its a mystery why they fail to give proper legal advice on the issue(or give it and see it ignored).

  13. lefty
    April 15, 2011 at 8:23 am

    “started requiring people to state their addresses before the cameras in order to deliver public comment” CP

    It’s one thing to want to know a speaker’s name & if they are a resident of the city, or not – that seems reasonable.

    Beyond that, it sure looks like heavy-handed harassment designed to seriously discourage one’s Constitutionally permitted right to “Free Speech.”

    btw – a happy belated BD, Chris – hope you had a good one.

  14. junior
    April 15, 2011 at 11:13 am

    “It’s one thing to want to know a speaker’s name & if they are a resident of the city, or not – that seems reasonable.”

    Yes, that seems reasonable to request. But it should be an explicit written policy – not left to the prejudiced whim of the mayor.

Comments are closed.