“Special” Closed Session
Did anyone see the agenda for the “Special” Closed Session Council meeting on Monday, September 9? I happened across it on Tuesday and immediately wondered what could have been so urgent that a meeting had to be called after adjournment on September 3 and then held before the next regular meeting on September 17. The agenda cites “CONFERENCE WITH LABOR NEGOTIATOR” and identifies the negotiator as Brian Nakamura.
The California Open Meeting Act (Brown Act) narrowly defines what business can be conducted in Closed Session. In this case, the Labor Negotiations Exception (§54957.6) limits the scope as described below by the Office of the California State Attorney General:
The scope of the closed session held with the negotiator pursuant to section 54957.6 is limited to issues concerning salaries, salary schedules, and compensation paid in the form of fringe benefits. In addition, for represented employees, the legislative body also may grant authority to its negotiator concerning any other matter within the statutorily-provided scope of representation. Closed session discussions under the labor negotiations exception may include consideration of an agency’s available funds and funding priorities, so long as such discussions relate to providing instructions to the local agency’s designated negotiator. It should be emphasized that the labor negotiations exception applies only to actual bona fide labor negotiations, and a closed session may not be conducted where a legislative body merely wishes to set the salary of an employee.
How can that be so pressing as to require a Special meeting?
Here are some thoughts:
The Brown Act reduces noticing requirements for Special meetings from the usual 72 hours to only 24 hours. (§ 54956) How very convenient to have such a short notification period that the public did not have an opportunity to contact the City beforehand to ask questions. While we could not have joined them at closed session, we had a right to be there before and after to provide comments or just observe traffic.
Who really looks at the City’s website every day to see whether the Council has called a Special meeting? From now on, we will.
When a Special meeting is called for Closed Session only, the Brown Act also requires that the legislative body first convene in Open Session to announce the subject matter and in this case, identify the negotiator. (§ 54957.7(a)) The public must be given the opportunity to comment before or during the legislative body’s consideration of the item, and the Special meeting notice must describe the public’s rights to so comment (§ 54954.3(a)), which this agenda did not. After conclusion of Closed Session, the body must reconvene in Open Session and may be required to make a report on any action taken. (§ 54957.1)
Perhaps when the September 17 agenda is published, we will be able to discern whether anything of importance took place at the Special meeting. Or, perhaps not.
In any case, we will be asking the City Attorney about the requirement to first convene in Open Session and allow public comment on Closed Session items – especially if they require a Special meeting.
Here are some highlighted excerpts from the California State Attorney General’s Brown Act pamphlet:
For any of you who care to read the entire document (thrilling, really…), here you go:
Truth Matters, Chico!