on your desktop for a bigger view. Learn more about our city.

No menu items!

The Brown Act State law in Arcata
Violations and Comments

The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to knowThe people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.
      — from the opening section of the Brown Act

In the State of California, the Brown Act is the law. It is my observation that members of City Staff have been withholding information that the People require in order to make an informed decision. Not just the letters from the public, although that is an obvious example. Real and meaningful information is being withheld, misrepresented, disguised, and dismissed.


Articles on the Brown Act

Potential Brown Act violations: December 12, 2023 Planning Commission meeting

The agenda packet for the December 12, 2023, Planning Commission meeting involves numerous seeming violations of the Brown Act. This is a letter to the City Attorney asking for his opinions. Estimated reading time: 9 minutes; can easily be skimmed.

Brown Act violations – A letter to our City Attorney

This letter discusses some of the numerous Brown Act iolations we've experienced here in Arcata. It was sent to the new (3 months at that time) City Attorney, Doug White, and to the City Manager; Community Development Director, and to the City Council on the evening of December 4, 2023. A presentation on the Brown Act was on the agenda for the Council's December 6 meeting. There will be further articles on this issue as we learn more from the City Attorney. Estimate reading time: 20 minutes. Can be skimmed.

The Brown Act presentation to the City Council — December 6, 2023

The presentation on the Ralph M. Brown Act, from the December 6, 2023, Arcata City Council meeting. By City Attorney Doug White and associate attorney Nubia Goldstein. With questions and discussion from the City Council members and comments from members of the public. 1 hour 10 minutes.

David Loya’s L Street video is a big Brown Act violation

Reading time: 12-15 minutes. The Brown Act requires our public officials to tell the whole story. Not part of the story -- the whole story. They are required to include all the facts, and not just that portion of the facts that they want to be brought to the open. The David Loya "Proposed Circulation" video contains misrepresentations, omissions of fact, misstatements, and downright falsehoods. As such, it is a blatant violation of California's Brown Act.

The November 15 agenda item on Gateway policy: Yet more Brown Act violations

The agenda new business item for the November 15, 2023, Arcata City Council meeting -- on adding Gateway plan policies to the General Plan as city-wide policies, and possibly not retaining the Gateway Area Plan -- included a variety of improprieties and falsehoods. Among them were distinct, major Brown Act violations.

The “Other Considerations” table – Multiple versions

The "Other Considerations" table supposedly consists of a list of recommendations for changes to the draft Gateway Plan that were in conflict with the draft. The first table came out four months after the 2nd Gateway draft arrived, and contains only a small fraction of the comments from the City's Committees, from the public, and even from the Planning Commissioners that "do not comport" with the official viewpoints.

Humor & Irony: California’s Transparency Law (the Brown Act) is unreadable in Arcata’s version

In a June 22023, e-mail with Arcata's Community Development Director David Loya, I quoted to him a key sentence from the very first paragraph of the Brown Act -- California's transparency "sunshine" law. I've quoted this to him before, mainly because I do not believe that Arcata's top planner (although with no planning degree) abides by the law. ***** In a surprising bit of irony, on the City's website the words that have the Brown Act quote are unreadable. *****

Serial Meeting Brown Act violations – What is the Law?

The Brown Act also prohibits use of a series of communications, of any kind, among a majority of members of a legislative body,  directly or through intermediaries, to discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item of business that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body. -- PROHIBITS USE OF A SERIES OF COMMUNICATIONS OF ANY KIND - DIRECTLY OR THROUGH INTERMEDIARIES.

Calling it a “Special Meeting” does not make it a Special Meeting – Part 2

According to Arcata's Municipal Code, the Planning Commission shall hold regular meetings twice monthly. In violation of this Code, the Commission has not been holding regular meetings.

Did the Planning Commission violate the Brown Act — again — at their April 27th meeting? Yes, they did.

At their April 27, 2023, meeting, the Planning Commission brought up rezoning on two specific areas in Arcata. This discussion and survey of each of the Commissioner's positions went on for about 38 minutes. Unfortunately, this topic was not listed as an agenda item for that meeting. To have this discussion was a violation of California's Brown Act "sunshine" law. What's worse, the Commissioners had specifically requested that this be on the agenda for that evening, and Community Development Director David Loya had not done put it there, even after being told on at least three occasions.

What happened at the April 11 Planning Commission meeting? A 6-minute video and transcription

What happened at the April 11, 2023, Planning Commission meeting? The Chair first announced that there would be just a single period for public comment. Then, after a one-minute private discussion with David Loya, the Chair relented and allowed additional public comment at the conclusion of the main topic of the night. Video and transcription.

Calling it a “Special Meeting” does not make it a Special Meeting

As just about everyone knows, just by saying something is true -- that does not make it true. And just by calling something by a certain name -- that does not make it be what you call it. *** So how is it that "Regular Meetings" became "Special Meetings" -- just by calling them that?

Discarding the democratic process even further: The Planning Commission meeting – April 11, 2023

The full video of the April 11, 2023, Planning Commission meeting. **** Calling this a special meeting allows, by law, an allowable reduction in the manner in which input from the public is taken. Far more people were in the audience at this Planning Commission than at prior Planning Commission meetings. At this meeting, there were TWENTY-ONE members of the public WHO SPOKE.

How and why did the Planning Commission change their meetings from 6:00 PM to 5:30?

The April 11, 2023 Planning Commission meeting was designated as a "Special Meeting" -- which would allow, by law, a reduction in how public input is taken. The total of public input could be limited to a single time, rather than have public input for each Business Item, as in a "Regular Meeting." *** Is this what the Planning Commissioners, as a whole, voted for? ***

New Planning Commission “Framework” for meetings unfortunately violates the Brown Act

At their March 14, 2023, meeting, Arcata's Planning Commission put into place a new "Framework" designed to help make the Commission meetings more efficient. The Framework includes the provision that:   "1) Commissioners will provide a ranked priority list of the policies they wish to discuss [on a set number of days] in advance of the meeting"; and then  "2) Staff will collate the responses to facilitate discussion and send the compiled list out to Commissioners by 5 p.m." [that day]. (Quoted from the "Framework" guidelines.) THE BROWN ACT SPECIFICALLY AND CLEARLY PROHIBITS THIS.

The California Brown Act Law – Editorial, August 18, 2022

Everyone in California who has held office or been appointed to a Commission or Committee is familiar with the Brown Act, or at least with the basic aspects of it. Designed to promote transparency and accountability in all government matters, the procedures outlined in the Act and in subsequent amendments are requirements of governance. ***** Following Brown Act procedures is not optional. It is the law. *****

Transparency Lacking in Arcata Gateway Plan

We don’t have to go far to uncover transparency issues. We can look right here at Arcata’s Gateway Plan. Crucial letters from the public about this plan have been hidden. They aren’t seen until after the meeting the letter was written for has passed. Do Arcatans want to see L Street — right next to the Creamery, where we come for festivals and fun — turned into a truck route? I don’t think so. Nor does Arcata’s Transportation Safety Committee. But that committee’s voice likewise has been ignored. --- California’s Brown Act: “The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.”

More Brown Act violations: Materials sent to Commissioners must also be sent to the public, at the same time

I regard the removal of letters from the public from the Agenda Packets, as has been done after May, 2022, and placing them away from the agenda packet at a later time, ranging from 2 weeks to 3-1/2 months later, to be against the wishes and interests of the public, and a continuous, gross violation of State law — and one which, since it can be remedied with only a small amount of effort on the part of Staff, represents a clear, obvious, and evident disregard for applicable law and for recognition of public engagement. ---- As I have said to the City Manager, to the City Council, and to the Planning Commission: This process of developing a Gateway Plan is difficult enough. Why augment a legal risk when to do things in accordance with State law involves such a relatively minor amount of effort? ******** On a risk / reward basis, current City actions make no sense. *****

Fred Weis reads the Brown Act to the City Council

It seems that the public is not receiving the information that is our right to receive, under the law. Why the public is not receiving this information is anyone's guess. And why a citizen feels the need to read the opening lines of the Brown Act Law indicates that much is wrong.

Letters on the Brown Act

Fred Weis – June 12, 2023 – David Loya once again dismisses the Transportation Safety Committee’s recommendation: “Removal...

David Loya dismisses the Transportation Safety Committee's input in a major way -- yet again. Arcata's Community Development Director David Loya has inadequately, inaccurately, or in a diminished fashion presented recommendations from the Transportation Safety Committee to the Planning Commission. It is evident from past manipulations of the Transportation Safety Committee's recommendations that Director Loya cannot be trusted to convey information from the Committee. 

Lisa Pelletier – June 12, 2023 – Go back to regular Planning Commission meetings

I urge you to go back to the regular meeting format. The "special meetings" format is impeding the public's right to weigh in. It's just that the process is so different from way this was done when the previous General Plan was being debated. It took four years, with a good many opportunities afforded for community input to come up with the previous General Plan. Now everything is being rushed through at once and the public is confused about what's on the agenda

Fred Weis – August 17, 2022 – Letters are being withheld from the public

"The letters to the Planning Commissioners are not getting into the agenda packets, or otherwise made available to the public. Typically, the letters are 2 to 4 months delayed. Some letters don't get in at all. -- What I am saying here is not just about a lack of letters. It is about a lack of respect of the public process. On the last page I have included a quote: Sentences from the first paragraph of the Brown Act, from 1953. In my view, the letters are not the only thing that is being withheld from the public. The letters are only a part of how this Gateway process is being made obscure and filled with misrepresentations."

Fred Weis – March 22, 2023 – Brown Act violations / Transportation Safety Commission Meeting cancellation / Upcoming Sea...

The Transportation Safety Commission Meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 21, 2023, was cancelled with NO NOTIFICATION to the public. What happened? Why be so rude as to offer no notice? ---- The Sea Level Rise Joint Study Session will take place Tuesday, March 28. Will there be an audio or video recording of this meeting? ---- Over the past year, there have been many dozens of BROWN ACT VIOLATIONS. Perhaps the City of Arcata can alter its practices so this does not continuously re-occur.

Fred Weis – March 28, 2023 – Serial Meeting Brown Act violations – What is the Law?

Serial Meeting Brown Act violations ---- excerpts from the California League of Cities article on this, and Best Best & Krieger, Attorney at Law, discussion on Serial Meeting Brown Act violations.

Fred Weis – March 28, 2023 -Serial Meetings are a Brown Act violation

The new framework for conducting Planning Commission meetings involves Serial Meetings. For the Commissioners to be sending their thoughts to David, and David compiling and sending the thoughts of the many Commissioners back to them, in writing, outside of public view -- that is a violation of the Brown Act open meeting laws regarding serial discussions outside of a meeting. ****** There are solutions to this. Even having material posted on-line in a timely manner might be good enough. ---There are consequences to acting outside of the Brown Act, mainly that it exposes those decisions and recommendations made while in violation of the Brown Act open to suspension, as well as the actions which took place subsequent to the violations.

Fred Weis – July 24, 2023 – Brown Act violations in July 25 PC agenda packet

Please be aware of the multiple Brown Act Violations committed in connection with material in the July 25, 2023, Planning Commission agenda packet. The Director said: “We’ve inserted what we expect you’re going to say, as a Commission — that you concur with staff on this issue, for example.” 

Fred Weis – July 25, 2023 – Further Brown Act violations; David Loya responds (and doesn’t)

What is bothersome is that with just a small amount of effort, the Brown Act conditions could be followed. But our Director refuses, again and again, to abide by the simple and clear directives of existing laws. The Director said: “We’ve inserted what we expect you’re going to say.” Councilmembers, I sincerely hope you find this cavalier approach to the truth to be disturbing.