Costa Mesa: Closed Session discussion of federal assistance to close Pot Shops possibly illegal

Cannabis Leaves

COSTA MESA — According to open government expert Terry Francke, the Costa Mesa City Council violated California’s open meetings law last year when it authorized behind closed doors a letter seeking federal law enforcement assistance in shutting down the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries. In a Voice of OC story today Nick Gerda reports:

The October letter – which preceded a federal crackdown on the dispensaries last month – was approved “as part of litigation and in closed session,” said city spokesman Bill Lobdell, referring to an exemption in the open meetings law, which is known as the Ralph M. Brown Act.

But the Council was prohibited from making any decisions about the letter – or even discussing it – in closed session while under that Brown Act exemption, according to Francke, who is the general counsel Californians Aware, a statewide First Amendment advocacy organization.

“It contains no privileged or legally sensitive information and the discussion and decision to send it does not qualify as one for a closed session concerning litigation,” Francke said after reviewing a copy of the letter.

“The purpose of that closed session is to allow the council to talk to the city attorney about the progress of a certain case,” said Francke. “It is not to conceal initiatives to represent the city’s position to federal authorities.”

In a statement sent to Voice of OC Costa Mesa city attorney Tom Duarte, of the Jones & Mayer law firm, wrote “the closed session item regarding existing medical marijuana litigation was properly noticed and placed on the Oct. 18, 2011 City Council agenda.”

Costa Mesa City Attorney Tom Duarte takes oath of office. Photo: Chris Prevatt

This of course from the same yes manwho told the council majority what it wanted to hear after the council forced their previous city attorney Kimberly Hall-Barlow to quit when told that their attempts to outsource most non-public safety jobs was not legal. The city is currently under court order halting that move. 

Gerda’s story in Voice of OC has much more detail, read it here.