On Monday evening the Santa Ana City Council met in closed session before convening in open session. During that meeting they discussed item 1D PUBLIC EMPLOYEE EMPLOYMENT AND APPOINTMENT pursuant to Government Code Section 54957(b)(1) Title: City Attorney; and City Manager. In public session Interim City Attorney Joe Straka reported that the Council “had reviewed the appointment of Interim City Manager Paul Walters, and determined that that appointment would continue at least until November 1, 2011.”
So I’m left with a simple question, how does the council get from the discussion of the employment and appointment of the City Attorney and City Manager to a discussion of the term of the Interim City Manager? How could anyone have known that the Council would be discussing the Interim City Manager’s possible length of time in that role based upon the agenda description?
The short answer is that you can’t; at least if you want to follow the Brown Act.
But more troubling than that discussion is the fact that Councilman Tinajero told the Orange County Register’s Andrew Galvin that during that closed session discussion the search for the City Manager had been placed on hold, at least until November 1, 2011. Tinajero even went into details, presumably discussed in closed session, that explain the reason for the delay in the process. Straka’s report mentioned absolutely nothing about the search process for the City Manager.
If such detail was so confidential that it could not be discussed in open session, it is doubtful that a single Council member would be authorized to then disclose that information publicly. In reality, the entire matter of whether to halt the process does not meet the standard for closed session discussion. But assuming the Council could leap over that bar, the reporting out of the Council action should have been handled by the City Attorney in public session, not by an individual Council member to a reporter.
I’ve fired off an email inquiry to the City Clerk and City Attorney requesting clarification. In the meantime, we have yet another example of how the elected leaders of the Banana Peel Republic of Santa Ana continue to act outside the law and with complete disregard of the public’s right to know what the heck they’re doing.