At last week’s regular (virtual) meeting, WEHOville readers noticed what appeaars to be Mayor Horvath and Councilmember Shyne texting back and forth breaking the law by violating the Brown Act on numerous occasions.
The Ralph M. Brown Act, located at California Government Code 54950 et seq., is an act of the California State Legislature passed in 1953, that guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies. The Brown Act forbids Councilmembers from soliciting or conferring with each other in sidebar conversations about any item on the agenda.
The item up for discussion is to select a date to discuss the proposal of a new Hotel Worker Ordinance. This item was brought forward by Mayor Horvath and Councilmember Shyne at a previous City Council meeting.
Councilmember D’Amico announced he could not attend the first meeting in July. His trip to Hawaii to bury his mother’s ashes had been pre-planned. Councilmember D’Amico politely requested that the council bring the item back for the July 19th City Council meeting. He pointed out that if the item was brought back for the July 19th City Staff would have the time to conduct the appropriate economic impact study recommended by the new City Manager David Wilson and also supported by Councilmember Meister. Horvath and Shyne would not compromise and continued to push this item forward without conducting an economic impact study. As the discussion continued about moving the dates Mayor Horvath, Councilmember Shyne and at times Councilmember Erickson appeared to be texting each other without the public participation. Private text messaging during City Council meeting is illegal.
David Wilson was confirmed earlier in the evening as the new City Manager and his first recommendation to the Council was to do the study on the effects of the proposed ordinance on our local Hotel’s and the budget. David Wilson assumes the role of City Manager on July 7th but currently serves as West Hollywood’s Chief Risk Officer. He also has been the Director of Finance. Despite approving the new city manager’s contract Mayor Horvath, and Councilmember Shyne and Councilmember Erickson dismissed his expertise and continued to push the item forward, They showed little respect to the new City Manager’s advice. It must be noted that all three of these Councilmembers received contributions and support for their campaigns directly from same Unions.
Bill Karpiak, Chair of West Hollywood’s Travel and Tourism Board also suggested the a study be commissioned by the city to examine the potential for tax revenue displacement resulting from the housekeeping ordinance. (Cutting the worker productivity by half in the midst of a labor crisis would require the hotels to limit occupancy and would directly decrease the hotel taxes collected.)
There were public comments by Genevieve Morrill, the President and CEO of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, along with Nick Remedio the Chairman of Chamber of Commerce and Bill Karpiak, general manager of the Ramada Hotel on Santa Monica Blvd. and Chair of the West Hollywood Travel and Tourism Board. Their comments reflected the urgency of our economic recovery and the inability of members of the City Council to do a fair economic impact study of the ordinance the Union-supported candidates are approving without regard. The ordinance itself does little to benefit West Hollywood residents.
During the public comment period while speakers were talking the it was clear to many that Horvath had her head down and looked as if she was conferring with Shyne and at times Erickson.
WEHOville chose 4 clips above to illustrate what appears to be a willful violation of the public process. WEHOville has put in a public records request for copies of the text messages of all 5 councilmembers and ask the City Attorney to enforce the Brown Act violations and guarantee the public an honest hearing.
It is also time to get back to the City Council chambers where City Council members cannot hide behind text messages and residents can have honest hearings and a local city council they can trust.
A member of a City Council can be guilty of a misdemeanor under certain circumstances. Specifically, under California Government Code section 54959, each member of a legislative body who attends a meeting of that legislative body where action is taken in violation of the Brown Act, and “where the member intends to deprive the public of information to which the member knows or has reason to know the public is entitled” is guilty of a misdemeanor. Please note that the member must have the “intent” to deprive the public of information to which it is entitled.