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NANCY LEONARD, Dana Point
Since 2002, the City of Dana Point has contracted Rutan & Tucker, LLP for city attorney services. Recently, the Financial Review Committee (FRC), a Council appointed citizens committee, prepared a report that compares the retainer and hourly fee Dana Point pays Rutan & Tucker for contract legal services to our neighboring cities of Laguna Beach, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano and Laguna Niguel.
The study found that Dana Point pays more for legal services than neighboring cities, some who are also served by Rutan & Tucker. Given the alarming figures and that the city has not engaged in a competitive bidding process for City Attorney services since 2002, the FRC recommended that the City Council open a competitive bidding process for the city attorney contract.
This item was included as a closed session agenda item for the Feb. 6 meeting under the guise of it being a Brown Act item. The Brown Act is a 1953 California law intended to insure public participation on all agenda items before the governing body takes action. Closed meetings/sessions not expressly authorized by the Brown Act are in violation of the Brown Act.
The Brown Act does not require a governing body, the Dana Point City Council, to consider in closed session the FRC recommendation: to commence a competitive bidding process for a city attorney contract with an independent contractor. The Brown Act is clear. This item should not have been placed on the closed session agenda. Mayor Viczorek and Council Members Muller, Tomlinson and Wyatt stymied attempts made by Council Member Debra Lewis to place it on the agenda for open public discussion amongst Council members and the public.
Why this item was placed as a closed secret item remains unknown. The city attorney, city manager and mayor could not state the reason this item was being hidden from the public. Ironically, the City Council tabled further discussion on competitive bidding for the city attorney contract asking the city attorney to render an opinion on the legality of conducting such considerations in public or private.
I believe placing this item for secret deliberation violates the open meeting provisions of the Brown Act and prohibits our residents from participating in the democratic process. It is a shroud over the transparency of government our residents demand.