To the Editor: Refutes Neel’s claims

In Mike Neel’s letter to the editor dated Jan. 30, he accuses the City Council of acting illegally by not divulging a closed-session vote. He is either being purposely deceptive or he is incapable of reading the plainly worded law.

He writes, “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….’”

Interesting how he just left it off there without even finishing the sentence. I wonder why he did that? The clause itself, without Mr. Neel’s curious elision reads: “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, as follows:”

Further reading of the law will reveal that the part of the statute that actually applies in this case begins down the page at paragraph 3. (3): “Approval given to its legal counsel of a settlement of pending litigation, as defined in Section 54956.9, at any stage prior to or during a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding shall be reported after the settlement is final, as follows:”

Yup, another “as follows.”

There are two scenarios following: “(A) If the legislative body accepts a settlement offer signed by the opposing party, the body shall report its acceptance and identify the substance of the agreement in open session at the public meeting during which the closed session is held.”

Does that apply to us? Duh, NO. The city was not in a position to finalize anything without the approval of the Timbisha Tribal Council. They were the ones bringing the action in this case. So we scroll down to the very next sentence and what do we find?

“(B) If final approval rests with some other party to the litigation or with the court, then as soon as the settlement becomes final, and upon inquiry by any person, the local agency shall disclose the fact of that approval, and identify the substance of the agreement.”

And that is exactly what happened. The city released a document detailing the settlement soon after the Timbisha accepted. And I imagine they will reveal the closed-session vote tally and roll-call at their next opportunity to do so, which will be next week’s council meeting. So once again Mr. Neel misleads News Review readers and the city by either failing to read the entire law, or by purposely leaving crucial parts of that law entirely out of his letter.

Scott Leahy

Story First Published: 2020-02-07