Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Courts shouldn't have to depend on the memories and truthfulness of board members--Brown Act requires closed sessions be recorded

It appears to me that many, if not most, unlawful strategies are decided by public entities during closed sessions in board meetings.

Good for Briggs and Trowbridge, who are working to bring those discussions to light.

Lawyer to SEDC: Record Meeting

Cory Briggs, a local attorney who filed a lawsuit last week against the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., has written a letter to the agency's corporate counsel, Regina Petty, asking her to ensure that the closed session of SEDC's board meeting tomorrow is recorded.

Briggs' letter says his client, activist Ian Trowbridge, wants the meeting recorded because the closed session discussion could become evidence in his lawsuit against the agency. That lawsuit alleges that SEDC's board violated state open meetings law, known as the Brown Act, when it voted in closed session last month to pay outgoing SEDC President Carolyn Y. Smith a $100,350 severance payment.

The Brown Act forbids the board from discussing a termination payment in private... the open session discussion is preceded by a closed session item that's listed on the meeting agenda as "Public Employee PerformanceEvaluation/ Discipline/ Dismissal/ Release."

Briggs' letter reads:

"The need for a neutral, objective record of tomorrow’s closed-session discussions should be obvious at this point. The discussions are likely to be evidence in the above-referenced matter and may become evidence in other proceedings. The best protection for my client, your client, and especially the public is for there to be a clear record of what is discussed -- one that doesn’t rely on the memories or truthfulness of persons accused of breaking the law -- in the event that the discussions become relevant at a later date...

"[N]ot preserving a contemporaneous record of the discussions could constitute the spoliation of evidence and subject your client (and possibly even you) to sanctions."...

August 26, 2008

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