Editor's Corner: Suit against Madera County was only matter of time
It was inevitable that someone would sue the Madera County Board of Supervisors over its attempts over past years to circumvent the California open meetings act — aka the Ralph M. Brown Act.
It turned out to be the American Civil Liberties Union, who in its recently filed lawsuit (see Page A1) against the board, chastises the supervisors for meeting in secret to instruct jail supervisor Manuel Perez to stop releasing felons who also are illegal aliens without first calling Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, which would like to take such felons into custody and deport them — which is federal law.
District Attorney David Linn has made public his desire that the county cooperate with ICE, which is what federal law says the county should do. There was no reason for secrecy on the part of the supervisors.
In fact, there is no reason for secret meetings of public governing bodies in California, and in most states, except for matters set forth in the Brown Act that are clear as polished plate glass: Personnel matters, real estate negotiations over price, and consultation with legal counsel. Everything else should be discussed in public, the Brown Act says.
This is from the introduction to the Brown Act:
In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.
The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.
The ACLU lawsuit against the county, if successful, could turn the county into a sanctuary county for illegals, which is the exact opposite of what the supervisors intended when they told Perez to follow federal law, which they were entitled to do and could have done in public.
If the county loses, it also will have to pay the ACLU’s legal bill, which you can bet won’t be chump change.
If the supervisors and their lawyers need lessons in how to govern within the restrictions of the Brown Act, they need only go across the street and attend Madera City Council meetings, which are Brown Act pure and completely open.