San Diego City Council Takes Up Open Meeting Suit In Closed Session

The San Diego City Council met behind closed doors for more than an hour Wednesday but took no action on a lawsuit that alleges the panel has been violating the state’s open meeting law over the past 13 years by permitting non-agenda public comment only once a week.

The lawsuit was filed last week by land-use attorney Craig Sherman. On Monday, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told the council members that Sherman raised some issues that are worth investigating.

Since 2001, the city has considered the meetings held on Monday and Tuesday of most weeks to be consolidated, meaning that a non-agenda public comment session — in which residents can speak on topics of their own choosing — only needed to be held on one of those days.

Current practice is to take those public speakers on Tuesdays. Goldsmith said a 2001 opinion issued by the City Attorney’s Office stated that the practice met the legal requirements of the Brown Act, but did not appear to be based on any legal authority.

He said the opinion is not necessarily wrong, but it needs a thorough review.

An agreement was reached with Sherman to take no action on the litigation until the review is completed, Goldsmith said. The deal is contingent on the City Council holding non-agenda public comment each day they meet, he said.

Earlier Wednesday, agendas were issued for next week’s council meetings. The Monday agenda says that non-agenda public comment will be taken Tuesday at 2 p.m.

“I am vastly disappointed to report that the City Council has not agreed to hold non-agenda public comment on Mondays while this matter is sorted out,” Sherman said in an email to City News Service.

The lawyer said he was still willing to hold off on his litigation for “a few weeks” while the City Attorney’s Office conducts its investigation.

“It is too bad the city is unwilling to reciprocate and provide the interim open government approach that is being requested of them,” Sherman said.