City OKs new pot code, Next mayor pro-tem voted in; secret session held

The Madera City Council Wednesday night voted to appoint Council Member Jose Rodriguez as mayor pro tempore. In that role, he will preside over the council at times of the mayor’s absence or substituting for the mayor in other duties, such as public appearances.

The council also passed the city’s new marijuana-growing ordinance to bring Madera into compliance with Proposition 64, which will legalize the recreational use of marijuana in California starting Jan. 1.

The city’s ordinance will allow the growing of only six plants indoors at a time, and the grower must obtain a permit from the city. Raising marijuana without the permit can result in fines of up to $1,000 per plant, or per day depending on the violation.

The permits must be displayed in plain sight in the dwelling where the growing is occurring.

The plants must be grown indoors, out of public view and out of the reach of children.

The growing space must be ventilated in a way to prevent escape of vapors into the rest of the dwelling or into the atmosphere outside.

The use of any pressurized or flammable gas products to process marijuana is prohibited. Renters cannot grow marijuana unless they meet all the conditions of the ordinance and obtain written permission of the landlord. New accessory housing code

The council also updated the city’s ordinance on construction of secondary, or accessory dwellings on residential properties that can accommodate them, changing language to correspond with the language of a state statute passed by the Legislature in an attempt to solve a chronic lack of low-cost housing in certain of California’s urban areas. Secret session dominates the council meeting

The longest part of the meeting, however, was held in a secret, or closed, session, behind closed doors away from the Council chambers.

The California Code, which allows closed sessions of public governing agencies under certain limited circumstances, was invoked on the printed agenda Wednesday night for three apparently similar if not identical items, all of which read this way:

“Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release — pursuant to Government Code 54957.”

That part of the open-meetings act allows the legislative body of a local agency to hold closed sessions during a regular or special meeting “to consider the appointment, employment, evaluation of performance, discipline, or dismissal of a public employee or to hear complaints or charges brought against the employee by another person or employee, unless the employee requests a public session.”

Typically, the results of closed sessions — if there are any — are announced publicly by City Attorney Brent Richardson when the closed session is over. At the end of Wednesday night’s closed session, Richardson announced that of the three discipline/dismissal/release cases, one had been resolved by adoption of a Civil Service recommendation — although he did not say what that recommendation was — while the two others still were being negotiated, and that no reportable action had been taken.

Government Code 54957 allows an employee’s pay to be lowered in closed session if that “results from the imposition of discipline.”

Also, charges against an employee such as malfeasance, misfeasance or sexual harassment, could be made in such a meeting, but would have to be reported in public if any action were taken.

As of press time, no announcement about the results of the closed session, other than Richardson’s, had been made.

It is likely, however, that fates of employees of the city, rather than elected officials, were before the council, since the law doesn’t provide for elected officials to be disciplined in secret.

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