Cypress Becomes Member of Censorship Board for Allegedly Failing to Follow Public Records Law

At Friday’s special meeting, the council ordered council member Frances Marquez to comply with the Archives Act and placed an item on the agenda for the June 27 council meeting to censure Marquez – an official condemnation of the rest of the board that requires a majority vote.

The demands for public records and censorship stem from the city’s refusal to change the way it elects city council members.

At a March 14 meeting, the city council voted behind closed doors 4-1 to reject a letter received from Malibu-based attorney Kevin Shenkman requesting the city’s move to ward elections, alleging the current general voting system deprives minorities of their rights.

In general elections, residents of the entire city can vote for as many candidates as there are council openings. So if two council seats are up for grabs, residents can vote for two candidates.

In district elections, residents can vote for only one candidate to represent the region and neighborhood in which they live.

Marquez was the dissenting vote and is now facing public pressure from colleagues to turn over records related to the secret ballot in a demand filed by Californians Aware (CalAware), a statewide open government advocacy group. .

CalAware is the same group suing the city for allegedly violating the state’s open meeting law, the Ralph M. Brown Act, when council members secretly voted to reject district elections on March 14.

At Friday’s special meeting, Marquez called the decision to censor her a “political stunt” by her colleagues.

At a special meeting in December, Marquez said his colleagues did not want to change their voting method because they could lose their place on the board.

“Someone will be forced to opt out of the next election. Why would members obey the law when they have a system that works for them,” she said.

[Read: Cypress Officials Face Lawsuit For Allegedly Violating State’s Open Meeting Law]

Staff recommend censoring Marquez for allegedly violating California law by failing to respond to recording requests and failing to respond to such requests in a timely manner, according to the staff report.

After the City Clerk received requests for registration from CalAware and Fortis LLP, a Costa Mesa-based law firm, Marquez either failed to forward the information to the City Clerk in a timely manner or failed to respond duly. everything, according to the staff report.

The request for records demanded information from all city council members, and Marquez was the only member not to respond within 10 days.

“The biggest problem with a lot of this is that we’ve all been asked at council to comply and…provide information from our home computers,” Mayor Paulo Morales said at the June 10 council meeting. .

“We were given a deadline at the request of the city manager to meet which prevents the city itself from being sued or at least the city and the city clerk can respond to the request for records in time timely. and in accordance with state law,” he said.

However, Marquez said she provided all of the documents for the request, but Cypress City District Attorney Fred Galante refuted her request, saying Marquez’s records requests were incomplete.

Marquez also said she hired an outside attorney to help provide the records because she did not trust the city administration. Additionally, she said her responses were late because her attorney had contracted COVID-19.

“The city received all the documents from me,” Marquez said during the council meeting. “This meeting is a political stunt. It’s a form of harassment from everyone here on the slides. My attorneys and I worked with City Attorney Fred Galante throughout this process. Attorney Galante agreed with the timeline process. My attorney contracted COVID during the process, and Attorney Galante was aware that the work would take longer.

Galante argued that because Marquez did not comply within 10 days of the requests for registration, she was breaking state law.

The board voted to require Marquez to immediately respond to public records requests filed by CalAware and other entities. The board also voted to require all members to meet the deadlines for responding to public records requests, which are 10 days.

The city also recently came under fire from CalAware for allegedly violating California’s open meeting law, also known as the Brown Act, after meeting in secret 11 times to discuss the city’s method of election. , according to the lawsuit filed by CalAware.

CalAware filed a lawsuit against the city for preventing the public from participating in discussions regarding the city’s potential move to a byelection.

Marquez said the requested information pertained to email correspondence regarding the city’s discussion of district election implementation.

“I can’t help but wonder about the parallels I see here with the city next to us, the city of Anaheim. These public records law demands are tied to district elections,” Marquez said at the meeting. “We are sued because my colleagues do not want to go to the district elections.”

The Board also approved two items requiring all members to meet the Public Records Act response deadlines and to hire special counsel to help respond to Public Records Act requests. Future board meetings will include an update on procedures for requesting public records in addition to the discussion of Marquez’s censorship.

Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.

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