City of Camarillo Announced Special Session, Closed Meeting for July 22, 2021 at 8:00AM

by Chris Bailey

21 June 2021, Camarillo Ventura County 

The City of Camarillo has announced a Special Meeting Closed Session to be held at 8:00AM  on July 22, 2021. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss initiating a lawsuit. 

By California law, city councils must comply with the Brown Act, and have exceptions to conducting business in the open without public hearing and notice. See the Citizens Journal article on open meetings https here.

The Closed Session meeting is also a very important tool for city councils to use in making decisions for their constituents. The Camarillo City Council has “jumped the shark” and advanced the schedule of this topic in the Brown Act series. 

 Here is what the notification from the Camarillo City Clerk says:

A. Conference with Legal Counsel – Anticipated Litigation 

Initiation of litigation pursuant to Government Code Section 54956.9 (d) (4)  Number of potential cases: One case.

 What this means is the City Council is entering a closed session of the full City Council to discuss pending litigation. The Brown Act disclosure requirements mandates the legislative body tell their citizens why they are calling a closed session, which in this case is under the section of the notification Item A.

 54956.9(d) For purposes of this section, litigation shall be considered pending when any of the following circumstances exist:

(1) Litigation, to which the local agency is a party, has been initiated formally.

(2) A point has been reached where, in the opinion of the legislative body of the local agency on the advice of its legal counsel, based on existing facts and circumstances, there is a significant exposure to litigation against the local agency.

(3) Based on existing facts and circumstances, the legislative body of the local agency is meeting only to decide whether a closed session is authorized pursuant to paragraph (2).

(4) Based on existing facts and circumstances, the legislative body of the local agency has decided to initiate or is deciding whether to initiate litigation. Source: California Legislative Information

 The City of Camarillo will be in closed session to discuss initiating a lawsuit. The Brown Act does not require a legislative body to tell the public who they are considering to sue. That is common sense, should the City Council in the long run decide NOT to sue, revealing that information would be unnecessary and potentially harmful.

Even though the citizens do NOT know what the discussion tomorrow is about specifically, the Brown Act tells us it is NOT about a lawsuit that has been filed against the City of Camarillo, or they would have been required to notify the public under sub(1) above. We also know the City of Camarillo is not meeting behind closed doors to discuss how to mitigate(avoid) a potential lawsuit that has been threatened, because they are NOT invoking sub(2) above. And finally, the public, from the formal notification of a Special Session Meeting Closed Session, knows the City Council is NOT meeting to discuss whether or not a Closed Session is authorized, because that is required to be disclosed as a sub(3) above.

The Brown Act, even in the case of Closed Session meetings, affords citizens to know quite a bit about why a Closed Session is being held. The city is required to hear from the public prior to the beginning of the Closed Session. The City of Camarillo has put that requirement at the top of the public announcement for the Special Meeting:

FOR YOUR INFORMATION – The City Council will hear from the public on the item on the agenda prior to recessing to Closed Session. Comments are limited to three minutes for each speaker. Please complete a speaker card for the city clerk.

If you want to speak to the Camarillo City Council before they enter Closed Session, you must fill out a speaker card before you can claim your 3 minutes. Please remember that you are NOT required to place your name or any identifying information on the speaker card. That is voluntary. Some people identify themselves as “Concerned Citizen”. Be creative if you wish, but please be tasteful.

 

Why would anyone want to address the City Council about a Closed Session with no Agenda Items but for the fact that the session is to discuss initiating a lawsuit? Here are a number of reasons:

  1. Concern over spending money on a lawsuit that can be mediated with less expense and impact to the city coffers, regardless of the reason.
  2. A clear documentation for the public record of the purpose for the Closed Session as announced by the legislative body.
  3. Requesting that the legislative body(in this case a City Council) be more descriptive in their explanation for why they are entering a Closed Session. Even though it would be inappropriate for a city council to name the potential litigant they intend to discuss, it is not against the Brown Act to offer the public information about the type of potential litigation(contract violations or statutory overreach would be examples) This additional disclosure could calm the concerns of the public, and alter the potential scope of pre-session comments to reflect only concerns and thoughts about the potential litigation.
  4. Concern for, and support toward the City Council to deliberate carefully in making decisions that are well thought through and in the best interest of the City of Camarillo.

 Litigation Closed Sessions are just one of the many closed meeting tools a legislative body can use to advance the interest of a city, afforded to elected officials in the Brown Act. In the next article in the series, we will go over all of the reasons a City Council or Board of Supervisors can go into a closed session.

 Chris Bailey is a reporter-at-large of citizensjournal.us, a business owner, military veteran and long time resident of Camarillo


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