Wednesday, March 27, 2002
Yaroslavsky Urges More Openness, Public Access to Government
By a MetNews Staff Writer
County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky yesterday unveiled a laundry list of changes he hopes the Board of Supervisors will adopt to shine the light into the dark corners of county government and allow the public more access as a response to recent accusations of behind closed-door decisions being made by the board.
“This is a self-inflicted wound,” Yaroslavsky said. “The board shot themselves in the foot on December 18.”
Revelations surfaced earlier this month that the board secretly directed its lawyer in December to kill a proposed ballot initiative aimed at increasing the salaries of health aides who care for the elderly at home.
The board, which pays almost a quarter of the aides’ salaries, responded to the efforts to put the initiative on the ballot by holding a closed-door session Dec. 18 with county counsel on how to defeat the measure.
Reportedly during those meetings the supervisors directed County Counsel Lloyd Pellman to refuse to write and release the title and ballot summary of the measure. Supervisors Mike Antonovich, Gloria Molina, Don Knabe and Yvonne Brathwaite Burke went along with the plan.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky was the lone dissenter.
Yaroslavsky referred to the board’s action “an abuse of power” and in his motion asks that county policy be changed so that no department head or employee be required to follow a board order if it would violate any federal, state or local law. The motion also provides that the employee cannot be subject to disciplinary action for refusing to obey the board.
Yaroslavsky called Pellman “courageous” for refusing to go along with the board’s direction and choosing instead to follow the law.
Yaroslavsky’s motion requires that Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen and Pellman amend county policy so that meetings between board deputies must follow the Ralph M. Brown Act, which lays out how public meetings must be conducted.
“Whether it applies or not, lets pretend it does,” Yaroslavsky said of the Brown Act. “What harm will it do?”
The motion also asks that agenda items be posted on the county’s web page and that transcripts of board meetings be posted within 24 hours after a meeting.
Yaroslavsky also requests that members of county commissions, which sometimes receive little public attention, be given annual seminars on the Brown Act and its requirements.
“We’ve had complaints about commissions and not just one,” he said.
The board yesterday also approved looking into options of keeping an accurate record of closed-session meetings.
Yaroslavsky said he supports Molina’s motion to have all closed-door meetings tape-recorded so there can be no question about what went on.
“We need an accurate representation of what transpired,” he said.
Molina’s office did not immediately return calls for comment.
The board will hold a public hearing April 2 to discuss the county’s adherence to the Brown Act. Molina’s and Yaroslavsky’s motions will be discussed during that hearing.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company