Compton Councilwoman Michelle Chambers requested the city attorney draft an ordinance to create a policy governing decorum of closed session meetings. Chambers was particularly concerned about allegations surrounding her comments being leaked out of closed session meetings and ending up on a blog.
The Video Conferencing Policy is specifically addressing participation in council meetings, by vidieconferencing, in order to avoid confidential information being discussed over electronic means particularly during closed session. Also of concern is establishment of a quorum to take action on certain matters since council meetings are being held outside of council chambers. .
“We can’t take actions if we don’t have a quorum and/or members of council don’t appear on screen,” said city attorney Damon Brown. “Emergency situations arise where council members are prohibited from appearing on camera and need to participate via teleconference.”
To establish a quorum three members of council must be present.
Councilman Isaac Galvan was concerned the item was specifically targeting him due to his not being visible during council meetings. He has been very vocal about being kicked out of closed session and not having the ability to vote on items presented during that time. At the top of the November 24 council meeting, Galvan alleged he was kicked out of closed session and unable to vote on matters.
“I was cussed out and kicked out of closed session and was falsely accused of things by the city attorney and mayor,” said Galvan. “I am shocked that not a single person in that session said nothing.”
“How does having people appear on camera protect the integrity of closed session,” asked Galvan.
The city attorney directed him to section C-3 of the policy which states the requirements of being in a room alone, must be wearing a headset, which Galvan argued how does the attorney plan on enforcing.
“They would state under penalty of perjury and attest to them being by themselves during closed session,” said attorney Brown.
Galvan questioned the city attorney if he has received any complaints of closed session items being discussed in public to which he didn’t answer, however, Councilwoman Chambers gave a first hand account of discussions held during closed session being repeated verbatim on a blog.
“There has been, since myself been on this council, discussions in closed sessions that have gotten out to blogs specifically with my name in them and were in detail that were only discussed in closed session,” said Chambers. “As recently as three closed sessions ago.”
“I don’t think it’s an outrageous request that council members are present virtually,” said Mayor Aja Brown. “These discussions held in closed sessions have a liability component for the taxpayers, and when information is leaked it automatically provides an advantage to those in opposition to the city.”
“This policy came forward because the city attorney briefed the council on a very serious matter that has serious legal and potentially financial implications on the taxpayers of the city of Compton because someone on the council leaked some very confidential and critical information,” said Mayor Brown. “When the law is very clear and when it’s broken the city attorney or council can forward items to the District Attorney for action and what was leaked will be forward to the authorities.”
Residents are concerned the city attorney is pushing the mayor’s agenda against Galvan, in order to bring a formal Brown Act violation complaint against him to the District Attorney’s office which appears to be in the works.
The policy passed 3-1 with Galvan being the dissenting vote and Councilwoman Emma Sharif having left the meeting early.
You can read the Video Conferencing Policy by clicking here.