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City of Bakersfield faces lawsuit over closed council meetings

Bakersfield City Council (FILE)
Posted at 5:15 PM, Dec 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-13 20:26:45-05

Bakersfield is facing a lawsuit that accused the city council of holding several closed meetings. The First Amendment Coalition said the meetings were in violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act, which guarantees "the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies."

The lawsuit points out that the closed sessions were held on July 19, September 6, and September 20, 2017, during which the council discussed "a wide range of matters of crucial importance to Bakersfield residents and taxpayers, including the city budget, potential staffing cuts and potential tax increases—all topics the Brown Act requires to be discussed in open session."

In documents, the city said the closed sessions were allowed based on an exception to the Ralph M. Brown Act. That exception allows for closed sessions in situations where existing or anticipated litigation was to be discussed.

In their statement in opposition to the lawsuit, the city stated: "the City was seeking to conduct discussions on matters pertaining to what City managers and the Council believed, based upon the existing facts and circumstance, was a significant exposure to litigation from plaintiffs who were not yet aware of their claims."

However, the lawsuit argued that "none of the discussions related to litigation."

When contacted, the City of Bakersfield had no comment at this time and lawyers for the city were unavailable for comment.

First Amendment Coalition vs City of Bakersfield: Opening Brief by Anthony Wright on Scribd

First Amendment Coalition vs City of Bakersfield: City's Opposition by Anthony Wright on Scribd

First Amendment Coalition vs City of Bakersfield: Petition for Writ of Mandate by Anthony Wright on Scribd