Council's winter, summer time off questioned

NEWPORT BEACH — By taking off time in the summer and winter, the City Council's schedule could violate a provision in the Newport Beach charter that requires twice-monthly meetings, according to at least one government watcher.

The city attorney said, however, the council is in still compliance with the charter.

At their meeting last week, council members adopted a calendar of regular meetings that has one meeting in August and one in December, while the city charter calls for two regular meetings each month.

Council members said it's a practical schedule and City Atty. David Hunt said it's perfectly legal, but at least one council watcher bristles at the idea.

"It can be very perplexing to the electorate," said Newport resident Jim Mosher at a December City Council meeting, "when the persons we entrust with our affairs feel free to enact conflicting policies."

The city charter reads, "The City Council shall hold regular meetings at least twice each month."

But beginning in the early 1980s, the council started taking off one meeting in December. It later adopted a policy that calls for only one meeting in December.

In 2007, it appears that the council began holding only one regular meeting in August.

"From a practical standpoint, it's a non-issue," Mayor Mike Henn said.

Fewer people are around to conduct business during those holiday times, and members of the public may be on vacation, he said.

"It's kind of silly to have a meeting to have a meeting," Henn added.

Henn also pointed out that the council schedules more than 24 meetings anyway, when including special sessions. In 2010, the council met 27 times.

The charter calls for bi-monthly regular meetings, which are required to conduct certain types of business, such as passing new ordinances.

Setting a regular meeting schedule is designed so a council cannot hide its business, Hunt said.

The Newport council doesn't try to conceal matters in special meetings, he said.

"As a duly constituted elected body, the council has the authority to set its own calendar," Hunt wrote in an e-mail. "The law does not require pointless action, and if there is no business to be performed, it makes no sense to have a meeting."

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