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Questions Prompt Council to Cancel Meeting at Resort

Two West Covina City Council members canceled plans to attend a retreat at a desert resort today after questions were raised over whether the event would violate California’s open meetings law.

Four of West Covina’s five council members were scheduled to participate in the West Covina Chamber of Commerce’s two-day retreat at the Pala Mesa Resort in Fallbrook, officials said.

But council members Kathy Howard and Steve Herfert pulled out after The Times questioned whether the two-day meeting with a council majority present constituted a violation of the opening meetings law, known as the Brown Act.

“Let the others go and violate the Brown Act,” Howard said.

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Terry Francke of the California 1st Amendment Coalition said any meeting in which West Covina issues or policy are discussed by a majority of council members must be open to residents. By holding the meeting so far away, he said, the public was effectively barred from attending.

“We are talking about a local meeting with most of the council present a hundred miles from the city on a day residents are working,” he said.

City Atty. Betsy Martyn said the meeting is exempt from the Brown Act because it is a conference open to the public. Late Thursday, the city posted a notice offering to bus residents to the session, but withdrew it after Howard and Herfert canceled their plans to attend.


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