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Council Nixes Probe into Closed Session Leaks

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By Jorge Casuso

February 23, 2022 -- The City Council on Tuesday voted not to pursue an investigation into the source of closed session leaks it had approved earlier this month.

The Council failed to muster the four votes needed to hire an investigative team to get to the bottom of the leaks some Councilmembers beleive are jeopardizing key hires.

Councilmember Lana Negrete -- who cast the swing vote two weeks ago to launch an investigation -- voted not to hire Foley & Lardner LLP, the firm chosen by staff to conduct the three-month probe ("Council Votes to Investigate Closed Session Leaks," February 10, 2022).

Negrete shared the same concerns as the three Change Councilmembers, who worried about the $100,000 to $150,000 legal bill and the probe's potential to further split an already divided Council.

"I'm all for transparency," Negrete said. "But there are things you can do that don't cost this money.

"I don't know that this is going to bring us together," she added. "I don't think that this is helpful."

Several Councilmembers said they were uncomfortable having investigators with subpoena powers probing their communications in an effort to uncover violations of the Brown Act and confidentiality agreements.

"I have significant concerns about subpoena powers," said Christine Parra. "I don't know what my rights are.

"I (would) have an investigator coming into my house to confiscate my personal computer. I'm giving up all these things.

"I have some serious concerns about that," she said. "I'm also concerned about handing over a blank check."

Councilmember Gleam Davis, who led the call for a probe, said it was important to get to the bottom of the leaks, noting that things she had said in closed session were repeated to her by those who weren't present.

"We need to find out what happened, who's responsible," Davis said. "If we have any integrity at all, we have to do an investigation."

Mayor Sue Himmelrich agreed. "The $100,000 that we spend here will give us a way to protect the integrity of our decisions and the respect we gain from our community.

"We will know what happened and we will be able to address it,' Himmelrich said. "If we do have a systemic problem in the City Council, we need to figure out how to fix it."

Councilmember Phil Brock, who heads the Change slate, called the probe "retaliatory" and "ludicrous.

He read a long list of "unfunded projects" he said could use the money the Council would be "frivolously" spending on a probe.

Davis took offense at Brock's comments and responded to his characterization of her call for an investigation as "a witch hunt."

"A witch hunt implies that there are no witches," Davis said. "We know there are witches here."

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