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Gov. Brown joked about legality of closed-door meeting, aide says

April 19, 2012 | 12:55 pm

California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks with reporters during the National Governors Assn. winter meeting in Washington in February. Credit: Jose Luis Magana / AP Photo
Gov. Jerry Brown acknowledged there would be questions about whether his closed-door session with Los Angeles County supervisors last fall was in violation of the state’s open meetings law.

According to a transcript obtained by The Times, the governor said at one point, “Let's get our Brown Act cover story."

Moments later, then-County Counsel Andrea Sheridan Ordin noted that reporters who questioned the legality of the meeting were waiting outside. "You may have folks out there who want to ask questions," she said.

The Sept. 26 session had been called by supervisors to discuss a controversial plan to shift the care of some prisoners from the state to the county. Before the meeting, several reporters had complained that it should be open to the public. But the discussion proceeded in private.

Brown was “clearly joking,” his spokesman, Gil Duran, said on Thursday.

After the meeting, a Times editorial writer had filed a complaint with the county district attorney that the session violated the Ralph M. Brown Act. And in a Jan. 24 letter to county officials, assistant head Deputy Dist. Atty. Jennifer Lentz Snyder agreed.

Lentz Snyder wrote that the meeting should have been open since the information discussed was not sensitive enough to constitute a public threat, which would have provided the officials with an exemption.

"The closed session was simply not permissible under the law," wrote Lentz Snyder.

County officials subsequently agreed to release a transcript, which they are expected to do this week.

Duran said Thursday that an unreleased recording of the meeting shows there is laughter following the governor’s comment. “He was mocking the county counsel’s premise for holding the session in closed session, which he thought was questionable.”

Brown and his staff had expressed concern about having a closed meeting beforehand, Duran said.

But the governor, a former California attorney general responsible for advising public officials on Brown Act requirements, accepted Ordin’s reasoning for why the meeting was legal. So, Duran said, he participated.

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-- Jason Song at the County Hall of Administration

Photo: California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks with reporters during the National Governors Assn. winter meeting in Washington in February. Credit: Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press

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