In Favor of Openness

Recent news reports informed us of a Simi Valley City Council closed meeting at which the city manager and city attorney received pay raises.

It seems that, currently, when questions of compliance rise, the agency representative uses the excuse that last year's changes were not fully understood. Too often that is simply a handy excuse for what has been a violation for many years.

Elected bodies (including self-appointed members), appointed bodies and committees need only be cognizant and willing to observe the intent of the open meeting laws to avoid violations. Need I say that staff is included here?

That intent of the law is stated in the act itself: "In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this state exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.

"The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created."

Let us hope the same New Year's resolution is adopted by all our public servants: "We hereby resolve that we will make every effort to inform the public and to answer questions promptly, openly and honestly."



Eloise Brown is a former member of the Moorpark City Council.

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