it's the public's money, and it's a public committee.
It's so simple, yet two foundations that the City Council created
two weeks ago do not have to abide by the same open-meeting laws that
the council must adhere to.
That law, the state's Brown Act, requires that the public be
allowed to attend meetings of public decision-making bodies. The only
exceptions that would leave the public out of the meetings are lack
of a quorum and discussions of pending litigation and personnel
issues. Those talks are private.
The City Council created two foundations that will decide how to
distribute $2 million in Home Ranch Development Agreement funding to
three Costa Mesa schools -- Costa Mesa and Estancia High and TeWinkle
Middle schools. But even though the funds belong to the public and
will be used for the public's benefit, the foundations do not have to
abide by the Brown Act.
Mayor Karen Robinson, a lawyer for the Cal State University
System, urged her council colleagues to apply the Brown Act to the
foundations, but ended up losing that argument.
As she said then, "It's a matter of law, not a matter of trust."
It's also a matter of perception. Sure, meetings may be open to
the public, but at the same time, it's not necessarily illegal now
for the foundations to meet privately.
It would behoove the City Council and the foundations to ensure
the public that the use of its money is open to public discussion. So
keep these meetings open to the public and make it extremely clear to
the public why some meetings have to be held privately.
The public deserves an open government. After all, it's the