Wednesday, April 3, 2002
City Attorney Clarifies Advice on Closed Sessions for Chief Parks
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
Not all Police Commission proceedings to evaluate Chief Bernard Parks must be conducted behind closed doors, a top city lawyer told the commission yesterday.
In a confidential letter to commission President Rick Caruso, obtained by the MetNews, acting City Attorney Patricia Tubert said her advice a day earlier that closed sessions were legal should not be taken to mean that all hearings on the Parks matter had to be closed.
“I think it is necessary to clarify that I did not, and would not, advise you that the Police Commission meetings in their entirety must be conducted in closed session,” Tubert wrote. “In fact, I specifically stated that I was not directing the Commission to conduct the entire hearing in closed session.”
The panel met with Parks for a second day yesterday in closed session.
Parks is up for commission appointment to a second five-year term. Last week, he waived his privacy rights under the Ralph M. Brown open meetings law and asked the commission to make their hearings public.
After Caruso asked for Tubert’s advice on the matter Monday, the commission voted to proceed in closed session.
Shortly afterward Tubert told the MetNews she advised the panel that proceeding in open session to discuss matters that involve the rights of third parties, including police officers or alleged victims, could expose the city to liability.
In her letter to Caruso yesterday, Tubert reiterated that personnel matters involving officers must be conducted in closed session to protect their rights. But she also restated that the decision of whether to open or close a meeting was “a policy decision that has to be made by the Commission.”
“Specifically, I advised you that pursuant to the Brown Act, the Commission has the option to conduct its meetings in open or closed session,” Tubert wrote. “If, however, the Commission decides to conduct its meeting in open session, then discussions relating to certain matters must be bifurcated and conducted in closed session. For example, personnel matters involving other police officers must be conducted in closed session to protect the privacy rights of such officers.”
Parks said yesterday he was not upset about the decision to keep the hearings closed.
“I made a request” for the session to be open, he said. “It was denied, and we’ll move forward and go through with the process,” Parks said. “Until I get a sense that it’s not fair, I’ll move forward.”
City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo publicly announced his support for Parks in February, then appointed Tubert to stand in for him as city attorney for purposes of advising the commission on the reappointment issue.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company