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Court tentatively and finally rules City complied with the letter and intent of the Brown Act

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In Kronick-Gath v. City Council for The City of Mission Viejo 21-1201428, the Court issued tentative and final rulings which found the City of Mission Viejo complied with the letter and intent of the Brown Act as it relates to all six causes of actions brought against it by the petitioner. The case related to the implementation of the City’s Core Area Vision Plan and negotiations to purchase property near the Village Center on Marguerite Parkway from a third party.

The Mission Viejo City Council is steadfastly committed to upholding the rule of law. The Brown Act is designed to ensure government actions and deliberations are conducted openly and with transparency. The City takes this responsibility seriously and looks forward to continuing the implementation of the Core Area Vision Plan to ultimately improve quality of life for Mission Viejo residents.

Comments

Submitted by Cathy Schlicht on Fri, 01/14/2022 - 10:43 am

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When the words do not match the action, trust the action.

This was a technical win for City Hall, based on "substantial compliance" with the Brown Act, but a moral and ethical loss for the citizens of Mission Viejo.

On February 23, 2021, Staff not only deceived the public, but also members of the city council; nevertheless doing so was "technically" legal.

Here were my public comments on Item #1:

Good evening Mayor and council members.
My name is Cathy Schlicht from Mission Viejo.

Either by choice, chance, poor planning or premeditated, our residents have been placed at an extreme disadvantaged by moving this agenda item to 5 o’clock instead of the customary 6 o’clock regular business portion of the council meeting.

Additionally, the voters are also put at an extreme disadvantage because a staff report has not been provided. Consequently, the public can only respond in a generic fashion.

Additionally, by not holding meetings in the spirit of the law, the public is also disadvantaged by being forced into making judgments without knowing the facts, the consequences, the costs, the attainable benefits.

And since the public can only submit comments prior to 5 o’clock, the public is barred from making comments based on any verbal reports and comments or statements or questions made by members of this city council.

The City’s February 19, 2021 press release regarding the Core Area Vision Plan failed to even give notice to the public that this discussion was even on tonight’s agenda.

These are more examples of this council being the least transparent council in the history of our great City.

Submitted by City Staff on Fri, 01/14/2022 - 11:52 am

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Thank you for your comments. Judge James L. Crandall issued a tentative ruling on Wednesday and then a final ruling on Thursday. As noted in the article, both the tentative and final rulings of the Court were that the City acted within the letter and spirit of the Brown Act in all six causes of action. The Court commended the City for such adherence, and so the opinions expressed in an earlier comment in this thread are inconsistent with the ruling of Judge Crandall. The transcript of the final ruling has not been made available by the Court, but the City will post an update as that may be released.

Submitted by Robert David Breton on Sat, 01/15/2022 - 12:02 pm

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Just how much time and money did this patently frivolous, meritless, and specious cause of action cost the City (and us taxpayers) to defend?
Will the City be reimbursed?

Submitted by Robert D. Breton on Sat, 01/15/2022 - 12:11 pm

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Just how much time and money did this patently specious, meritless, and frivolous cause of action cost the City (and us taxpayers)?
Did the Court order the losing party to pay attorneys' fees?
Since the judge found that the City had complied with the letter and the spirit of the Brown Act, will the losing litigant take the moral and ethical step of reimbursing the City?

Submitted by Cathy Schlicht on Tue, 01/18/2022 - 4:03 pm

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Bob Breton is a former Mission Viejo mayor and a current planning commissioner appointed by Trish Kelley.

Did our City Hall insider read the Briefs or attend the Court hearing via Zoom? I have and I did.

This was not a frivolous lawsuit. This was a citizen standing up for open and transparent government for all of the citizens of Mission Viejo. As stated by the California Supreme Court standard for government lawyers, the government lawyer has a responsibility to seek justice and to develop a full and fair record. That standard was not met. However, the title on that February 23, 2021 agenda was within the language of the safe harbor.

The Brown Act represents our open meeting laws. It should be noted that these laws are the minimal requirements for open government.

Here are just a few examples of the Council's lack of transparency:

1. The Council remains totally silent on how the city attorney received authorization to rescind or disavow an amicus brief that was authorized by the Council at the April 14, 2020 meeting. On May 6, 2020, the city attorney forwarded the Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court of the United States. On May 20, 2020, the city attorney at the direction of the unanimous city council, unconditionally withdrew the Amicus Brief. A records request revealed: "no applicable records on file" as to when and who authorized this action. Consequently, the Council created a false narrative that has effected our election system.

2. The city attorney declared that the July 14, 2020 violation was just a technical Brown act violation. The council voted to re-hire the city attorney BEFORE public comments.

3. How do you explain Trish Kelley making a declaration on September 14, 2021 that only three districts will be going out to vote in 2022? Where does it show on the agenda or even the Minutes that this action occurred? Where was the opportunity for the public to speak? There was not an agenda report, nor do the Minutes reflect this consensus of the council to extend terms of office, again.

To quote the City: "The Brown Act is designed to ensure government actions and deliberations are conducted openly and with transparency. " Like I said before: When the words do not match the action, trust the action.

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