The City of San Bernardino recently launched its Hometown Heroes Military Banner Program with unanimous support from the City Council. On Tuesday, September 6th a press conference was held to introduce the program that would recognize and honor the brave men and women of San Bernardino currently serving in the United States Armed Forces. In an event which should have been above politics, politics non-the-less was introduced by the City Attorney’s office. At a time when a nation stopped to recognize the ten year anniversary of 9/11, the day that forever changed America, the City Attorney stooped to a new level of political deception and chicanery.
Since an item regarding the Hometown Heroes Military Banner Program was to be heard on the council agenda following the press conference, the City Attorney’s office waited until two hours prior to the press conference to issue a legal memo citing potential “Brown Act Issues”. The memo stated, “Had this office been consulted beforehand, we would have recommended adding the press conference to the agenda, thus starting the meeting thirty minutes prior to the commencement of closed session. Had that been done there probably would have been no Brown Act issue.”
The merits of his memo could be highly debated on its loose interpretation of the Government Code. But that’s another point entirely. The fact of the matter is the City Attorney’s office had enough time to positively intervene if it felt the press conference was in jeopardy of violating the Brown Act.
On Thursday, September 1st at 11:59 a.m. the Assistant City Attorney opened the ‘military banner press release’. Later that same day at 3:22 p.m. the City Attorney opened the press release. Somewhere between those two ‘learned’ attorneys the potential Brown Act violation red flag should have went up.
The City Attorney’s actions or lack of righteous actions caused some Council members not to attend an event that all members enthusiastically supported. If the man who brings up the Brown Act at almost every meeting wanted to really be of assistance, he had a day and a half to work preemptively instead of destructively.
This leads me to three conclusions. One, the City Attorney and his staff do not communicate well. The Assistant City Attorney knew around noon of potential “Brown Act Issues”, having been well versed regularly on a multitude of Brown Act violation scenarios. If the lines of communication flowed without blockage, then the press release legal issue would have been shared with the City Attorney.
Two, the City Attorney is an obstruction to good government. The San Bernardino City government is not often viewed in a good light by our neighbors, in which the constant shenanigans of the City Attorney factors immensely into that perception. This was an opportunity to shine, collectively, as a body. But the City Attorney worked passionately to disintegrate any opportunity for unity.
And three, the City Attorney made a conscious decision to behave un-patriotically at a time when our nation was honoring our heroes patriotism. Having observed numerous times first-hand, the City Attorney’s penchant to operate as the ‘Brown Act Police’, this malicious action cannot be perceived as a mere oversight.
Rikke Van Johnson is the 6th Ward Councilman of San Bernardino.