To the Editor: City owes an explanation

The City Council owes the public information it withheld on Jan 15 after its closed-session discussion on the possible land sale to the casino developer. The city “attorney” again illegally refused to state how the individual members voted on that item, using the usual ruse of “no reportable action.” That statement is an intentional cover for the councilmembers’ actions during closed session on that item. State law says that all decisions require reporting of the individual members’ votes.

Read Government Code 54957.1 (a) — “The legislative body of any local agency shall publicly report any action taken in closed session and the vote or abstention on that action of every member present….”

That is plain enough. We should have been told how each member voted as to how to proceed on the land sale decision — to proceed or not. There is nothing confidential involved in that information that required withholding the members’ votes from the public. The ruse of claiming that the city manager was just “given direction” by the council and that there was “no vote” is just plain untrue, as no decision can possibly be made without some kind of vote, and city law requires that the city manager can be given direction only by the whole council — read from City Code 2-4.104 —“… The City Manager shall take his orders and instructions from the council only when sitting in a meeting of the council. No individual council member shall give any orders or instructions to the city manager ...” This clearly means that only a majority of the council can give direction to the city manager, and that could only possibly occur if a vote on a matter was taken.

So why was the direction given to Ron Strand on the land sale item to the casino developer not reported to the public, with the specifics as to how each member voted? The only reason is that once again, the city manager and leading city council members wished to hide their actions from us in violation of the stipulations of Government Code 54950, which specifically addresses city meetings. Section 54957.1 (a) clearly states that such actions are to be reported to the public.

I now state that the city council and its legal counsel are in violation of Government Code 54957.1(a) and are subject to the enforcement action available under Government Code 54959 — “Each member of a legislative body who attends a meeting of that legislative body where action is taken in violation of any provision of this chapter, and where the member intends to deprive the public of information to which the member knows or has reason to know the public is entitled under this chapter, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Further reading of Government Code 54960 details how the district attorney may bring action on this violation of California law.

As one of the members of the public who is owed this information, I demand the following: Whether to proceed forward, and how each individual member voted accordingly on the item on the Jan 15 city council agenda closed session item titled: “CONFERENCE WITH REAL PROPERTY NEGOTIATOR Pursuant to Government Code § 54956.8 Property: Lots 1-3, and 28-36 of Parcel Map 10819, P.M.B. 52-128-131 in the City of Ridgecrest City Negotiator: Ron Strand, City Manager Negotiating Party: Global Investment Enterprise Ridgecrest LLC Under Negotiation: Price and terms of payment.”

It is very simple — the council is required to divulge to the public if members voted to proceed on the land sale discussion with the casino developer and how each of them voted. That information is owed to us, and we require it.

Submit the required information forthwith. We await your response.

Michael Neel

Story First Published: 2020-01-31