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L.A. County supervisors ask Legislature to change open-meetings law

February 7, 2012 |  1:25 pm

Los Angeles County Supervisors Michael D. Antonovich in 2006. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Two weeks after county prosecutors said the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors had violated the state’s open-meetings law, the supervisors approved a motion Tuesday to create an exemption.

The officials had met behind closed doors with Gov. Jerry Brown last fall to discuss controversial plans to shift responsibility for overseeing nonviolent prisoners and probationers from the state to local authorities. They claimed the closed meeting was permissible because the discussion involved a matter of public safety.

After the Sept. 26 meeting, a Times editorial writer filed a complaint alleging that the meeting should not have been closed.

Months later, assistant head Deputy Dist. Atty. Jennifer Lentz Snyder issued a letter saying “the closed session was simply not permissible under the law” and that the meeting should have been public because none of the information presented was sensitive enough to constitute a public threat.

While none of the supervisors publicly mentioned last fall’s meeting with the governor or the letter during Tuesday’s board session, they voted 3-0 to seek state legislation amending the Ralph M. Brown Act. Voting in favor were Michael D. Antonovich, Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas. Supervisors Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky abstained.

The new provisions would make it so that the president of the United States and the governor could meet in executive session with the supervisors on issues posing a threat to the security of public buildings or essential public services.

Antonovich said the board was already authorized to meet in executive session with many other public officials regarding those issues and should be able to meet with the governor and president, as well.

Even if Antonovich’s motion does make the transformation into state law, the executive sessions would be allowed only if the supervisors could prove that such a threat existed.

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-- Ari Bloomekatz at the Hall of Administration

Photo: Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times