Irvine City Council Accused of Another Backroom Deal and Brown Act Violation

At the City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 25, 2022, the Council will hold a closed session meeting to discuss Agenda item 1.4, which is potential litigation resulting from the Council’s ’s previous closed session discussions of the recently approved Great Park Framework Plan. An anonymous resident sent the City a letter dated ­­­­October 14, 2022, alleging serious Brown Act violations and claiming that the extent of closed session discussions on the Great Park Framework by the Great Park Board and the City Council were illegal and demanding that they “cure or correct the improper actions taken” and they “cease and desist from any further proceedings relating to the Implementation Agreement unless and until the City complies with the Brown Act’s open meeting laws.”

The author of the letter writes, “Contrary to what the agenda item described, it is my understanding that at its September 13th and 27th meetings, “[the City Council] had thorough and robust conversations on [the Implementation Agreement] in closed session.” Furthermore, “[the City Council] provided very specific direction and instructions to staff on this very topic [in] a very long and lengthy closed session discussion,” well beyond the price and terms of payment for a non-existent purchase, sale, exchange, or lease. “The state’s open meeting laws do not generally allow an exception for public agency negotiators on development agreements to receive direction from the governing body.”

“The extensive consideration and robust discussion of various aspects of the Implementation Agreement and detailed direction provided to the City Attorney and other members of the City of Irvine’s executive leadership during these closed session portions of City Council meetings is concerning and constitutes a clear attempt to keep confidential its deliberations. As such, under the guise of the real-property-negotiations exception, Irvine’s residents were effectively blindsided and “shut out” of the public participation and process.” [Emphasis added]

“At a minimum, the City’s actions violated the Brown Act, the basic open meeting provision, and agenda requirements for closed sessions. (See, e.g., Gov. Code §§ 54953, 54954.2, 54954.5, 54956.8 & 54962.) If the City intends to pursue and execute its Great Park Framework Plan Implementation Agreement, including the issuance of bonds, I insist that all applicable substantive and procedural laws and ordinances are scrupulously followed.”

The author concluded by writing, “If the City fails to cure or correct as demanded, such inaction will leave me no recourse but to seek a judicial invalidation of the challenged action.”

This City Council and the City Attorney have a history of alleged Brown Action violations, backroom deals, and efforts to limit transparency. Irvine Watchdog has reported on a significant number of these concerning incidents, and the ACLU has warned the City against some of its efforts to limit public input, transparency, and Brown Act violations. We will continue to monitor and report on these issues.

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