Councilmember Andrew Whitman said at the April 25 Ojai City Council meeting, “The law tells us that what we did and the explanation for what we did is confidential.”
He was referring to discussions the council had in closed session and a provision of state law called the Brown Act.
The definition of the word confidential is “intended to be kept secret.”
Keeping things secret is not the intention of the Brown Act and it is concerning that an elected official, tasked with working in the public interest, would believe that is what the law says.
Yes, an elected body is allowed through legal privilege, which the Brown Act respects, to have certain conversations out of view of the public, but the Brown Act also allows an elected body, when it is in the public interest, to air those issues in view of the public.
In fact, the Brown Act makes no mention of issues that are intended to be kept secret from the public; rather, it describes what is allowed to be in closed session. Yes, the difference is nuanced, one we expect our elected officials to grasp.
In fact, the Brown Act encourages and requires the public business to be conducted under the full light of public view. It is called a sunshine law. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.
The Brown Act allows for certain subject matters, such as litigation in this context, that may be discussed in closed session. But the Brown Act makes no declaration of what is or is not confidential in terms of city business.
We urge the Ojai City Council to vote to abide by the request of the Ventura County district attorney to record all closed sessions.