Council being sued over alleged Brown Act violations

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A group of Farragut Drive homeowners have filed a lawsuit against the Culver City City Council alleging violations of the Brown Act, the latest development in a continuing battle of words between City Hall and the plaintiffs regarding preferential parking.

Paula Cruz, James Heyl, James and Nadine Province and Ronald Davis- all homeowners who live in the 10700 block of Farragut Drive- are the plaintiffs in the legal action accusing the five-member council of breaching the state’s 61-year-old open meetings law when they discussed preferential parking at an Aug. 11 meeting.

Homeowners on that small block have enjoyed preferential parking restrictions that prohibit non-residents from parking on their street for 32 years and appear to be ready to protect the restrictions in court.

The legal action, filed on Nov. 26 in Los Angeles Superior Court, asks for a declaration that the city violated the Brown Act by discussing the parking matter, court costs and attorney’s fees.

Les Greenberg, the plaintiffs’ attorney who himself lives on Farragut, said because Councilman Andrew Weissman reported receiving correspondence regarding preferential parking restrictions on Farragut and the council and their staff members discussed the situation, that constitutes a violation of the Brown Act because parking restrictions were not on that night’s agenda.

The four-month debate on preferential parking began because Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church on nearby Overland Avenue asked the council to consider removing the Farragut parking regulations because of the growth of the church’s congregants and the need for additional parking.

The council did not vote to take immediate action during the August meeting. The city’s governing body asked the city staff to research whether an analysis of traffic patterns would be needed for the area. City officials say no decision will be made on the preferential parking zone until next year.

Greenberg said his clients do not trust city leaders to objectively evaluate whether the parking restrictions should be lifted.

“We feel that the deck is stacked against us, primarily because of Councilman Weissman,” Greenberg asserted. “It seems that he is bent on removing the restrictions.”

Weissman has not publicly stated that he is in favor of removing the parking restrictions.

In a Nov. 17 letter to Greenberg, City Attorney Carol Schwab said her office found there were no such breaches of the open meeting law.

According to Schwab, at a Nov. 10 meeting where Greenberg addressed the accusations prior to a closed session with the city’s legal representatives, she was directed by Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells to send Greenberg a letter based on the city’s findings.

“Based on that direction from the City Council, I am writing to inform you that there has been no finding of a violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act,” Schwab wrote.

Greenberg has previously accused Weissman, Councilman Jeffery Cooper and Vice Mayor Micheál O’Leary of having conflicts of interest on the parking matter, even though an expert on conflict of interest law said he does not believe that the trio acted in an unethical fashion.

“Based on what I have heard, nothing was done that would have generated a conflict of interest,” said Michael Martello, senior counsel of the Institute of Local Government who is also the former chair of the League of California Cities Fair Political Practices Commission Committee.

Greenberg’s wife, Paulette, filed a public nuisance complaint against the church last month and in October Les Greenberg lodged a cease and desist complaint asking the council to refrain from doing anything that would alter existing parking restrictions on Farragut.

Council being sued over alleged Brown Act violations