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City Attorney's Position Invites Brown Act Violations

January 7, 2020

Dear Editor,

Two crucial questions are raised by Interim City Attorney George Cardona's position concerning Councilmember Kristin McCowan's Brown Act violation ("Council to Redo Vote for Top Posts," January 6, 2020).

Has there been a violation of the Brown Act due to Councilmember McCowan’s serial meetings?And has the violation been cured?

The answer to the first question is a resounding yes.

Mr. Cardona actually quotes that part of the Brown Act and says there “might have been” a violation. That’s as close as a defense attorney would go to admit his client’s wrongdoing. (Technically Councilmember McCowan is not Mr. Cardona’s client, the City is).

Had there been no violation, Mr. Cardona would not have advised Councilmember McCowan to make the public disclosure in the first place.

Has the violation been cured?

Mr. Cardona’s answer is yes. He claims Councilmember McCowan making a public disclosure cured the violation.

This is nonsense, of course. All the disclosure does is prevent Councilmember McCowan from facing criminal charges. There is still the civil aspect of enforcement of Brown Act violations.

If it were true that the disclosure cured the violation, everybody would violate the Brown Act, then simply disclose the violation publicly, and pretend everything is fine.

All Council deliberations would then take place behind the closed doors, then the Council would confess the violation publicly, and proceed to a for-show-only public meeting.

Without Councilmember McCowan recusing herself during the new vote, we would be reinforcing that it’s okay to violate the Brown Act and there are no consequences to the violation.

Moreover, the message would be that you might actually be rewarded for the violation with a Council leadership position like that of Mayor Pro Tem after violating the Brown Act.

This would be a very dangerous precedent, one we cannot allow.

Olga Zurawska
Santa Monica

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