Originally posted at City Watch LA.
The prevention of citizens from attending a public meeting is in direct violation of California State Government Code § 54954.3 which states, “[The] public may comment on agenda items before or during consideration by legislative body.” Owing to the mayor, James T. Butts, and city council not allowing residents to enter the building or, if they did gain access, to reach the 9th floor, this and other significant state laws were violated.
This reporter arrived at 9:58 a.m. to find all four entrances to Inglewood City Hall locked. A number of people were at each entrance. All were denied entry.
Around 10:04 a.m., an apparent city employee approached the main entrance at the east side and reluctantly allowed this journalist inside but denied access to others seeking entry. When told of the city council meeting scheduled for that morning, she said she was unaware of it.
“I don’t know about it. But if there is, the elevators are probably locked too. If you can get up there, maybe you can see.”
The elevators were locked. It was at that time that two more city employees entered city hall from the south side. One of them was Mr. John F. “Jack” Hoffman. (They had been seen a few minutes earlier walking to a vehicle parked beneath the nearby library, and had since re-entered city hall.) Both had city IDs. Hoffman used his card to provide access via the elevator to the 9th floor, which was accessed by this reporter at exactly 10:06 a.m.
Hoffman is a retired Personnel Director from the City of Glendale and a resident of Inglewood who lives on Fairview Boulevard.
On the 9th floor, the council chamber doors were open, the lights were on but no one was inside. It was at that time that District 2 Council Member Alex Padilla exited from behind the chambers and came down the hallway. He stopped, said hello and when asked about the council meeting said, “We just finished. We’re going into closed session now.”
Downstairs again, there was a brief conversation with City Clerk Yvonne Horton. Pleasantries were exchanged and then this reporter went outside to speak with Inglewood Management Employees Organization (IMEO) members who had gathered in the library parking lot. When told that the doors were locked, that the open portion of the council meeting had been executed in a matter of minutes, they departed together.
Incoming Inglewood City Attorney Kenneth P. Campos was informed of the situation as well as the violations of the California Ralph M. Brown Act that had occurred as a direct result of the public being prevented from attending the city council meeting of December 30, 2013.
Outgoing city attorney Cal P. Saunders, who has notified the city of his resignation as of 31 December 2103, apparently took the time to write a rare response. Despite evidence to the contrary, an unsigned response via Saunders’ e-mail account stated that “[i]t was my understanding that the doors to City Hall were open and the 9th Floor was assessable by elevator before 10:00 a.m.”
Saunders’ e-mail response was cc’d to the assistant city manager/Chief Information Officer (CIO) Michael Falkow.
Falkow is in charge of the video security footage collected by the City of Inglewood which is filmed at all four entrances as well as in all four elevators.
The mayor, Campos and city council members did not respond to requests for comment via e-mail.