Open government advocates have threatened legal action against the city of National City for an alleged Brown Act violation during a Feb.7 City Council vote on a substitute resolution regarding a discussion about making National City a welcoming city for immigrants and refugees.
The council voted against a welcoming city resolution, instead, in a split 3-2 vote, supported a substitute resolution brought upon by Mayor Ron Morrison.
Chris Shilling, a member of Chula Vista’s board of ethics, and the nonprofit open government advocacy group San Diegans for Open Government sent National City a Brown Act demand for cure and a cease and desist notice for violations of the Brown Act in connection with the city’s approval of a substitute motion in making National City “a community in support of continuing to be a community that supports all residents and visitors.”
The demand for cure and the cease and desist letter argue that the mayor’s substitute resolution was illegal as it did not follow the Ralph M. Brown Act — the state’s open meetings law.
“The mayor’s last-minute introduction of the substitute resolution, as well as the rushed vote thereon without an opportunity for public comment, strongly suggest a majority of the council deliberated upon and discussed the matter outside of the public meeting,” the letter states.
Deputy City Attorney Roberto Contreras said he could not comment for this story because of potential legal action.
Livia Beaudin, an attorney with Coast Law Group who represents Shilling in this matter, has given the city the ability to cure and correct its actions to one.
The letter demands the City Council and mayor withdraw the prior votes to approve the substitute motion, properly agendize an open meeting for the consideration of a resolution to create a welcoming community, providing any proposed alternate or substitute resolutions with the agenda materials, provide an opportunity for public comment by members of the public at the aforementioned meeting, and provide for the open and public vote by the council and mayor.
Additionally, Shilling submitted a separate notice of intent to sue and demand for disclosure of public records.
Beaudin said the public records request was made to substantiate the Brown Act violations.
Beaudin challenges some of the city’s exemptions on public records as it is withholding information from social media messages and private emails.
“The whole purpose of this public records request act request is to get to the bottom of how did this come about and was there really a Brown Act violation,” she said.
“Because with no public discussion with the substitute resolution being for the first time introduced at the meeting, and then getting a majority vote, that looks really suspicious.”