By Hannah Fry and Emily Foxhall
8:21 PM PDT, October 9, 2013
In an attempt to "immunize" the city from "unnecessary litigation," the Newport Beach City Council voted Tuesday night to make a written pledge not to repeat the actions that led to allegations of violating the state's open meeting laws.
City staff drafted a letter in response to resident Jim Mosher's allegation that the council violated the Ralph M. Brown Act in several instances related to the city's Sept. 10 decision to pursue a contract with a private company to outsource trash collection.
In his complaint, Mosher noted that the council adjourned to closed session without explicitly announcing the items to be discussed.
In the future, a city staff report says, "The city may choose to make its pre-closed session announcement by referring to the numbered item on the agenda, which describes the closed session matter(s)."
The letter does not admit liability or wrongdoing, but protects the city from potential lawsuits, according to the report.
City staff said they believed Mosher's allegations to be "largely without merit," according to the report, but they recommended that the council address one accusation in one of the letters to prevent litigation.
That accusation dealt with how the council handled its closed session when it talked with the city manager and the city's human resources director about what would happen to the employees who pick up trash if their jobs were outsourced.
The council voted 4 to 2 to approve the letter, with Councilmen Tony Petros and Edward Selich dissenting.
"There's no actionable violation of the Brown Act here," Petros said. "It is just ridiculous."
Curry agreed with other council members who expressed annoyance in having to respond to Mosher's allegations.
"I share with you the frustration that comes week after week," he said.