City Council Continues to Schedule “Special Meetings,” Straining Public Participation
City Council Convened Five Last Minute Meetings in 60 Days – Even on a Friday Night!
In a distressing trend, a slim 3-2 majority of the city council has called a series of “Special Meetings” outside the normal meeting schedule. The scheduling of these last minute meetings at irregular hours makes it difficult for the public to participate in the decisions being made by the council.
The council typically meets on the first and third Tuesdays of each month to make critical decisions on a range of issues facing the community. But between Jan. 8 and Feb. 8, the council voted to hold five additional special meetings.
There is now the potential for another Special Meeting on March 28 This is an all-time high for the city. The last time the council called a special meeting was six years ago.
In fact, the council met three times during the week of Feb. 5: at its regular Tuesday meeting, then again at 10 a.m. Thursday, and 6 p.m. Friday. City Hall is closed on Fridays, and this meeting required bringing in city staff , including up to six sheriff deputies, on their day off . This meeting, like the others was called by Mayor Pro Tem Cedric Hicks and councilmembers Jim Dear and Lula Davis-Holmes.
These Special meetings are being convened at a time when the City is still without a permanent administrator since City Manager Ken Farfsing resigned last year. Th is places tremendous pressure on city staff and interim managers to properly notice and prepare for these meetings, in addition to the day to day business of running the City.
California’s transparency laws require that the agenda for all regular meetings be posted at least 72 hours before the meeting. However, “Special Meetings,” require only 24 hour advance notice. Mayor Robles placed an item on the Feb. 5 agenda to try and limit this practice, but the motion failed on a 3-2 vote with Hicks, Davis-Holmes and Dear voting “No.”
These meetings are costly from a staffing perspective, and more importantly can undermine public trust when the council is meeting on weekday mornings and Friday evenings, all in the same week. Carson council meetings are usually well attended and promote dialogue with the community. Holding meetings on short notice and off schedule robs residents of that opportunity and should be used only in cases of true urgency.
Some cities have passed their own “Sunshine Ordinance” that require additional notice for Special Meetings, such as in Oakland where the requirement is at least 48 hours before the stated meeting. As a Charter City, Carson might consider exploring such long term solutions for more accountable government.