Under fire for allegedly breaking California’s open-meeting law, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed late Tuesday to give the district attorney records from two closed meetings on the proposed closure of Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center’s trauma unit.
According to participants in the meetings on Sept. 7 and 13, the supervisors agreed to a plan by county health department director Thomas Garthwaite to close the trauma center to relieve stress on the troubled hospital. Both closed-door sessions were described on public agendas as consultations with county lawyers about “anticipated litigation.”
The supervisors then held a press conference on Sept. 13 to endorse the closure, unleashing a storm of opposition.
On Friday, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley announced that prosecutors had opened an inquiry into allegations that the supervisors had violated the Ralph M. Brown Act, which requires government bodies to conduct most business in public.
“We’re still in the reviewing stage, but we need the documents in order to determine whether to open a criminal investigation,” said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.
Any material collected during the inquiry, she said, would be kept confidential.
The supervisors voted 5-0 in closed session to cooperate with Cooley’s inquiry.
Also on Friday, attorneys representing the Los Angeles Times sent supervisors a letter charging them with violating several Brown Act provisions and asking the board to immediately disclose documents and tape-recordings from the meetings.