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District Attorney’s Office issues cease and desist letter to Ojai City Council for Brown Act violations

Ventura County District Attorney's Office

OJAI, Calif. – The Ventura County District Attorney's Office (VCDA) issued a cease and desist letter to the Ojai City Council and Ojai City Councilmember Leslie Rule for alleged violations of the Brown Act.

The Ralph M. Brown Act is a state law requiring meeting of qualifying legislative bodies, such as a city council, to be open to the public with an opportunity for public comment. Notably, the Act does make narrow exceptions for non-disclosure of meetings.

In this case, the VCDA concluded that the Ojai City Council exceeded those exceptions for non-disclosure during closed sessions recently.

The cease and desist letter also noted that the disclosure of potential Brown Act violations by Councilmember Rule to the media is not allowed under the Act and was itself an additional alleged violation.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Wold explained that the closed session is considered privileged information under the Brown Act and disclosure to the media either before or after informing the VCDA Office still violated the Brown Act's stipulations.

“Absent a valid exception, a city’s council deliberations and decision making must be open to public scrutiny,” said District Attorney Erik Nasarenko. “The Council’s closed-session discussions violated the Brown Act, as did Councilmember Rule’s disclosure of those discussions to the media instead of the Office of the District Attorney.”

Now, the City Council of Ojai and Councilmember Rule have 30 days to submit a written response to the allegations made within the cease-and-desist letter.

If these allegations are contested by either the Ojai City Council collectively or Councilmember Rule individually, the VCDA Office can litigate their allegations in Civil Court.

Article Topic Follows: Ventura County
Brown Act
cease and desist letter
Ojai City Council
ventura county
Ventura County District Attorney's Office

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