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Court Rules in Favor of City in Brown Act Lawsuit
The Marin County Superior Court has ruled in favor of the City of Novato in TransparentGov Novato v. City of Novato, and dismissed the petitioner’s arguments that the Novato City Council violated the state public meetings law, also known as the Ralph M. Brown Act, during a December 15, 2015 Council meeting. At that meeting, the Council discussed motions on whether to place two items—the Hamilton Solar Carport and the design of the Redwood & Grant bus station—on future agendas. The Council took no action to place these items on a future agenda. TransparentGov sued the City, claiming that the Council discussed these projects for too long and in too much detail, and therefore, violated the Brown Act.
In its ruling, the Court stated that “these discussions were preparatory to voting on whether to place the issues of revision/reconsideration of these projects on a future agenda and did not take any more time than was reasonably necessary for the members to become informed,” and that “it was reasonable for the council members to ask questions and offer their opinions and reasons in support of/or against the motion before they voted on the proposal.”
The City has always maintained that it had adhered to the Brown Act, and strengthened its commitment to the state law last year by modifying a Council policy, consistent with the Brown Act, eliminating arbitrary limitations on the time allowed for discussion on items proposed for future agendas. The new policy also requires that (a) Council members who wish to discuss placing an item on a future agenda give prior written notice of their request to have such a discussion and, (b) place the discussion on an agenda.
“The court has confirmed that we complied with the Brown Act,” said Mayor Denise Athas. “We will continue to be committed to transparency and dedicated to improving community engagement.”