City's meeting with Cogdill a violation

archive_import /


Four of Sonora City Council's five members violated state open meeting laws when they met with state Assemblyman Dave Cogdill and discussed with him a possible city sales tax increase, according to two legal experts on public meeting law.

Council members would not say the impromptu Oct. 9 meeting violated California's Ralph M. Brown Act, but four of five concede it might have.

Passed in 1953, the Brown Act requires public business to be done in public and that meetings involving a majority of an elected, public board be announced in advance.

The law applies to public commissions, city councils and county boards of supervisors, but not to state government agencies. It details what constitutes a meeting and when local elected officials are allowed to meet in private. The law specifically says a quorum cannot meet behind closed doors except for in certain, specific cases.

The meeting with Cogdill is not one of the allowed closed sessions, according to the Brown Act.

The subject came up at a Brown Act seminar at City Hall on Wednesday night with local attorney Patrick Greenwell, who served for about four years as county counsel. He conducted the seminar for city and county officials, the public and the press. Part of Greenwell's practice still consists of work with governmental agencies on Brown Act cases.

At the session, Greenwell said that had the city council met with Cogdill only in order for him to present information about issues non-specific to Sonora, the meeting might have been within the law.

When the council broached specific city business mainly the legislative support and steps required to allow the city to put a sales tax increase before voters is when the violation occurred, Greenwell said.

"It's possible we came very close, or may have (violated the Brown Act). I don't know," Mayor Marlee Powell said.

She was one of the four council members at the meeting with Cogdill, along with Ron Stearn, David Sheppard and Hank Russell. Councilwoman Liz Bass was working that day and did not attend.

The Union Democrat
This image is copyrighted.

Reach all of Sonora, Calaveras County, Tuolumne, Angels Camp, Twain Harte, & Jamestown with your items to sell.

Ads appear Online and in Print

View Classifieds Place an Ad

Connect with The Union Democrat

Union Democrat Newsstand

Saturday May 28, 2016

Read digital interactive editions of our publications

Read Today's Edition Take A Tour

More Publications by The Union Democrat

View All Publications
Sheriff’s deputies respond to alarm at Sonora KFC


Tuolumne County sheriff’s deputies responded with guns drawn to a holdup alarm ... more

Avalon Care Center fined for patient death


Avalon Care Center in Sonora has been fined $80,000 by the California ... more

UPDATE: Probe begins in Don Pedro fire


Investigators began sifting through the rubble of the Don Pedro Recreation Agency ... more

Homelessness, high school and the Butte Fire


Cole Baisch arrived at Calaveras High School around lunchtime as the sky ... more

Deputies visit schools, build community ties


You would think Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Deputy Nate Yorston was Santa Claus ... more