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No Violation in Council Vote for Top Posts, DA Says

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By Jorge Casuso

January 26, 2021 -- The Los Angeles County District Attorney has found that any Brown Act violation in selecting a new mayor and vice mayor on December 8 was "cured and corrected" when a new vote was taken this month.

In a letter to community activist Zurawska last week, DA George Gascón said the Brown Act did not require Councilmember Kristin McCowan to recuse herself when the Council voted to reselect her as mayor pro tem and Sue Himmelrich as Mayor on January 12.

Zurawska had alleged the City Council violated the open meetings act after McCowan disclosed she had spoken with three other Councilmembers before participating in the initial vote last month. She also questioned her participation in the subsequent vote.

"It should be noted that the Brown Act does not require the city to conform with your suggestions that Councilmember McCowan refrain from participating in the new selection of Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem and that she not be nominated or accept a nomination for Mayor or Mayor Pro Tem during her current term," Gascón wrote on January 20.

"Furthermore," he added, the Brown Act does not require the Council to take any additional actions other than curing and correcting the violation which was the December 8, 2020 vote for Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem."

Gascón noted that Santa Monica City Attorney George Cordona denied a Brown Act violation had taken place and that McCowan’s disclosure of "serial communications" at the December 8, meeting "resulted in substantial compliance with the Brown Act."

The City Attorney recommended that the Council hold another vote, which was taken -- after "substantial public comment" -- by Councilmembers who "made alternative nominations" that resulted in the same outcome ("Himmelrich, McCowan Solidify Support, Keep Top Council Posts," January 13, 2021).

"Therefore, we find that all matters discussed at the meeting were transparent and that the Brown Act violation was cured and corrected," Gascón concluded.

Both Himmelrich, who has served six years on the Council, and McCowan, the first Black woman elected to the Council, will serve two year terms.

Although the mayoral post is mainly ceremonial, the mayor can set the council's agenda and represents the City at local events, as well as at meetings and conferences.

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