Ignoring Brown Act Meeting Rules
CalAware has joined the Los Angeles Times in suing Metrolink, the Los Angeles area transportation agency, challenging the legality of an emergency teleconference meeting that Metrolink’s Board of Directors held in September 2015, where it discussed a single item of business in closed session. The item it discussed was a design flaw that Metrolink had learned about during an investigation related to litigation filed against the agency after a February 2015 train crash. Metrolink argued that if the design flaw became known to potential bad actors, they could exploit it. Therefore, they used the Brown Act’s exemption allowing a closed to discuss “matters posing a threat to the security of public buildings, a threat to the security of essential public services, including water, drinking water, wastewater treatment, natural gas service, and electric service, or a threat to the public’s right of access to public services or public facilities.”
At a hearing in November 2016. the trial court denied our case in its entirety. The ruling is attached. Basically, the judge felt that Metrolink had the discretion to determine whether there was a real “emergency” situation that allowed it to go into closed session, and whether there was a situation that could pose a threat to Metrolink facilities and its riders. She ruled that she would not substitute her judgment for Metrolink’s. Since she found there was an emergency situation, Metrolink was excused from complying with any of the Brown Act’s other requirements, including the rules for holding meetings by teleconference. CalAware and the Times are challenging the judge’s decision in the California Court of Appeal.