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Google Alert - open government

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Selling Public Assets Need Public Discussion



I objected to the City Council going into closed session regarding the potential sale of City Hall, the Main Library and the old courthouse, on the basis that the Brown Act is very specific about the conditions under which discussion about real property can take place in closed session.

 Section 54956.8. Closed session; Real estate negotiations reads in pertinent part:
“Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, a legislative body of a local agency may hold a closed session with its negotiator prior to the purchase, sale, exchange, or lease of real property by or for the local agency to grant authority to its negotiator regarding the price and terms of payment for the purchase, sale, exchange, or lease.

However, prior to the closed session, the legislative body of the local agency shall hold an open and public session in which it identifies the real property or real properties which the negotiations may concern and the person or persons with whom its negotiator may negotiate.”

The City has not identified the persons or persons with whom its negotiator may negotiate and therefore I believe this should not go into closed session and would ask that this be laid over for a public session at which the Council can publicly discuss what it is exactly being proposed for the City property. 

 A recent Attorney General Opinion narrows what can be discussed in closed session concerning real estate to price and terms:  “If local agencies need a ‘rule of reason’ allowing them the flexibility secretly to discuss all aspects of any project involving some transfer of an interest in real property, they must seek such authority in new legislation.  Otherwise their ‘rule of reason’ is precisely what is withheld in the Brown Act’s preamble as ‘the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.’”

 The taxpayers deserve to know what their elected officials have in mind for their public assets. Additionally, in this economic time when property values are at an all time low, it seems unwise to be placing property on the market. It also seems unwise at a time the City cannot properly fund police and just recently removed a fire engine from Belmont Shore, that it would embark on buying itself a new City Hall. Taxpayers have the right to know in open, public sessions what is being proposed by City management and to fully engage in any discussion that would impact the decision. To date, taxpayers have not been given this opportunity.