On Monday, May 3, 2010, Richard McKee acting on behalf of Californians Aware submitted a letter to the city of Westminster demanding that they rescind their action (the circulation of a joint letter signed by Council members Diep, Quach, and Ta) which the three members took outside a regular meeting of the City Council because that action appears to be in violation of the Brown Act.
Back on April 26, I wrote in Black April Memorial Events in Westminster – Tarnished By Brown Act Violations and Politics about the possible violation of the Brown Act by three members of the Westminster City Council. My concern came from two separate acts by members Andy Quach, Tyler Diep, and Tri Ta. The first of these occurred around March 29 when Council Member Diep prepared, and apparently released to Vietnamese media, a joint statement of those three members of the council regarding the permit dispute between the Vietnamese Community of Southern California and Supervisor Janet Nguyen who was holding a permit to recognize the fall of Saigon in 1975, known as Black April on April 30, 2010 on behalf of herself and a coalition of community groups.
In order for such a statement to have been issued, these three members who comprise a majority of Council members would have had to have either direct or serial meetings to agree upon the joint statement. As this matter had been presented to the City Council for consideration on March 24 and was likely to return to the Council for a decision on the matter, such a meeting was in clear violation of the Brown Act.
The demand (here) made by Mr. McKee is meant to correct the fact that a majority of the Council took an unagendized, closed Session action outside a public meeting to circulate a letter in their official capacity, thus acting on behalf of the full City Council in violation of the Brown Act.
This leads into my second concern that on April 21, after receiving staff reports regarding the dispute and hearing public testimony, Councilman Ta made a motion, which was seconded by Councilman Quach, to revise the permit previously issued to the office of Supervisor Janet Nguyen to a morning time period on April 30. In addition to the revision, the motion granted a permit application for the evening time that had been issued to Supervisor Nguyen’s group. As there was no discussion among the members of the Council as to why this particular solution was warranted over another, there was no rationale offered by Member Ta as to his reasoning for his proposal and no discussion among any of the three voting in support of the action as to why they agreed on the course of action.
The lack of discussion leading to the proposed solution presented by Councilman Ta, as well as the concurrence with that solution by members Quach and Diep without any explanation of rationale for the proposed solution, demonstrates that the majority of the members of the Westminster City Council had reached their conclusions and took official action based upon conversations, either directly or serially, that had occurred outside the official public deliberations of the City Council in violation of the Brown Act.
The problem with the action taken on April 21 is that since the result of the action taken has already been realized, there is no remedy to demand, other than that the council majority ceases having direct or serial meetings in violation of the Brown Act. If the Council complies with the remedy demanded by Mr. McKee, then that demand may come, since by complying with the demand, they will have to admit that indeed they had conducted at least one discussion of this matter of business either directly or serially.
The other unfortunate reality is that unless as disgraced former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona famously said on tape; “unless there was a pinhole in (someones) ceiling, it never … happened;” there is not much the public can do to correct the matter. What is needed is conclusive evidence that the three individuals involved actually met and conspired to reach a decision on this matter of city business, outside of the public meeting process as required by The Brown Act. The District Attorney could investigate, but absent a smoking email or published letter as above, the case would be purely circumstantial. The District Attorney’s office seems to have a general unwillingness to pursue this type of misbehavior; therefore it is likely that nothing will be done legally.
The people do however have the ability to speak out though. If the public wishes to comment on this misbehavior by their elected official they can show up and tell them so. They can take their displeasure to the ballot box in November and make changes in leadership. One thing for sure, if elected officials keep getting away with this type of behavior; it is unlikely that their behavior will change.