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Other blogs have already covered last night’s Anaheim City Council meeting and Mayor Tait’s unforgettable demolition of Kris Murray’s mendacious Register editorial during closing Council Communications, so I need not repeat their good work. You can check the coverage on SaveAnaheim, Voice of OC, or OC Weekly, or you could just watch the episode right here (c/o SaveAnaheim)…
What I want to talk about here at the Orange Juice, rather, is the view from the cheap seats. The real meetings generally don’t take place in front of the cameras; the action is in who attends the meeting, who sat where, and next to whom, who is avoiding that person, and which lobbyist got up and left after the Agenda Item we had no idea they were tied to – that’s where the meetings get interesting. But ordinarily I watch Council meetings online, from the comfort of my couch. It allows me to A) kick back in jammies, sweats, or yoga pants that have never seen the inside of a yoga studio. It also allows me to B) swear rather loudly when the meeting becomes nothing more than an opportunity to sign another City-stamped check to Curt Pringle’s clientele.
Last night, dearest hubby insisted we attend. He’d been cooped up for weeks (long story) and was ready to get out among the living. Most of all he felt bad that the Mayor kept getting his head handed to him on a regular basis, and decided that he wanted Tom Tait to look out and see at least two friendly faces and know he had support. So in solidarity we went. We stayed late because I wanted to see what they would report out from Closed Session, so we were able to catch the Mayor’s very firm but gentlemanly remarks, when many others had left the meeting already.
What You Missed If You Weren’t There!
If you only watched the meeting online today, what you missed was the reaction of those few still sitting in Chambers. The Mayor was winding down, having made his case regarding Councilmember Kris Murray’s false legal arguments, (remember, Tait is a lawyer) and as he made the statement:
I tolerate the personal attacks because frankly, I believe I have the truth on my side. I am not here to be popular or even particularly liked. I am up here to do the right thing for the people of Anaheim.”
Someone in the back of the room began to clap. The clapping grew, moving organically from the back of Chambers toward the front, picking up momentum, and sound, so as he said:
“But I very much care when someone elected to public office uses the media access granted to them based on their position as a public servant, and then abuses that access by sharing falsehoods to the people they are sworn to govern.”
Some let out cheers, and by the time he wrapped up with a demand for a retraction from Murray, the dozen or so of us left in Chambers were nearly on our feet. The clapping continued and even gained momentum, drowning out the childish demands of Councilman Jordan Brandman, who turned from pink to red to a glorious purple as Tait’s comments built support.
Like the bully who insists we all stay and play the game until HE wins, Jordan kept trying to get the attention of Tait, or the City Attorney, or ANYONE who might be able to stop the parliamentary procedure and let HIM have the final word. How DARE the Mayor act like he has the right to adjourn the meeting? Doesn’t he know who is really in charge?
Well actually, Jordan, Mayor Tait DID have the right to adjourn the meeting. In fact, having concluded the business before them with nothing remaining of the items that were publicly noticed on the Agenda, and having granted all of the leaders opportunity to speak during Council Communications, it frankly would have been against the law for the Mayor not to have adjourned the meeting, as they were not legally permitted to discuss anything else! Robert’s Rules of Order, which Brandman so often uses to pummel the Mayor into abeyance, states that:
“When a body has completed the scheduled order of business at a meeting and there is no further business for the assembly to consider at that time, the chair may simply declare the meeting adjourned without a motion having been made. If a main motion, it cannot interrupt pending business, and is amendable and debatable.
“Under Robert’s Rules, a motion to adjourn is given high privilege even to the point of interrupting the pending question and, on adoption, it immediately closes the meeting. This is because a majority should not be forced to continue in session substantially longer than it desires and this is also the reason why this motion is not debatable.”
Brandman’s grasping for reasons to keep Tait in the room to take his beating from those who know better carried no more weight than the movement of the Chair to Adjourn the meeting, and his abuse of the motion may even be considered dilatory, if someone really wanted to dive into parliamentary procedure.
Ironically, during their own comments, each and every one of those “leaders” acknowledged the loss of public servants Chris Jarvi and former Police Chief Harold Bastrup, so technically they had all essentially moved to adjourn the meeting. But that mattered not at all – it is the Mayor’s prerogative to adjourn – as Chair it is what he does. As Jordan sputtered his “point of order” and begged Tait to “please stay”… Tait leaned into the microphone and repeated that the meeting was adjourned.
Now, I’m no lawyer, but….
Not being a lawyer, and being too cheap to consult one in order to complete my unpaid blog post, I must admit this is merely speculation, but I would love to hear from someone who did happen to attend law school. What legal standing did Jordan Brandman have to demand that anyone allow him to continue his tantrum? The meeting was adjourned by the legally recognized Chair, having concluded the business before them and having granted all involved their own opportunities to speak during Council Communications. At that point there is no legal obligation to allow them to force one member to remain for back-and-forth debate and rebuttal.
Failing to force Mayor Tait to remain, Murray handed the gavel to Gail Eastman, asking that the Mayor Pro Tem run the meeting in the absence of the Mayor. But legally there WAS no meeting to run! The Council majority, floored at the idea that they might not get the last word in, turned to the City Attorney, but the City Attorney does not run the meeting, the Mayor does. In fact, by continuing to sit in those seats and create what had now become two-way communication, they may even have committed a Brown Act violation last night, under the nose of this interim City Attorney who so clearly craves a permanent job.
Enough with my speculation, and that is all I offer, speculation.
Ultimately Kris Murray’s response was not only a blathering attempt to salvage a little of her dignity that Tait had left crumpled on the floor, it was as legally bogus as her editorial that prompted this fracas.
Murray explained that she had sought two legal opinions, although oddly enough she stopped short of saying she had consulted the City Attorney – and she failed to do the easiest thing of all – just ask the man right there and then, who’s right? In fact, why did Kris Murray consult OUTSIDE Counsel, rather than the Interim City Attorney, for an opinion on what was clearly City business? (The Initiative under discussion from last year was managed by the former City Attorney, Cristina Talley, so Michael Houston would not have implicated himself if he shared the opinion that he thought it was incorrectly handled and would have been illegal.)
Not only do I wonder why she went to outside Counsel, I wonder WHOM she supposedly went to? Voice of OC’s Adam Elmahrek interviewed her immediately after the meeting, and says she refused to tell him whom she consulted. Did Mrs. Murray pay for the advice from the two attorneys she claims she consulted? That would be an expensive way to prove you’re right, in an argument against something that did not happen in the first place.
Whoever she went to was apparently mistaken, so I hope she didn’t pay much.
Ultimately, her attempt to claim that, as in the infamous City of Bell case, Mayor Tait tried to slip in some self-serving change to our Charter while denying the people of Anaheim public notice, public hearing or participation in the process, is bunk. Her (poorly written) editorial claimed, “Both the ACLU and Mayor Tom Tait pushed for swift action to place a ballot initiative in front of Anaheim voters before the community had any opportunity to play a part in the process.” Really Kris? Before the community had ANY opportunity to play a part in the process?
Let’s look at the more contentious issues dealt with on last year’s Council calendar.
Hmm…. on July 11 of last year, City Council conducted a workshop, at which Public Comments were heard on this issue. At that meeting, 21 members of the public spoke in favor of District Elections, 6 spoke against the issue, and one person was undecided but wanted the opportunity to vote and decide for themselves. On August 8, we held a special meeting scheduled at Cook Auditorium in order to handle the massive crowds expected to speak on this issue. Recorded minutes from that meeting show 28 people spoke in favor of District Elections, including candidates Jordan Brandman and Lucille Kring, who both spoke at the podium that night. 2 people spoke against the Initiative, and 42 others spoke on other topics, primarily Police issues.
And who can forget the night of July 24, when so many people tried to cram into the Council Chambers to speak on THIS ISSUE that unrest resulted from those not permitted inside due to Fire laws. On that night, 8 people spoke in favor of District Elections, NO individuals spoke against, and 44 others spoke on other issues before the Police Chief suggested the meeting close due to safety issues. Kris, do you remember that night? Your friend Gail thanked God for not making you publicly record your decision to strip the public of our right to vote on how we are governed…but Murray has the nerve to try telling us that it’s the Mayor who’s pulling a fast one trying to change our Charter without enough public participation.
In the end, the Mayor showed what he is made of: the gentleman managed to make it clear he will not tolerate the constant attacks on his character, while still somehow remaining the gentleman statesman about it. Jordan Brandman showed a bit more of who he is, childish, petty, and flailing. The person I’m most concerned with is actually Gail Eastman. As Mayor Pro Tem she was handled the gavel, and blindly reconvened the meeting at the insistence of her friends. Those friends are going to get her into legal trouble one of these days, when someone comes down on Anaheim City Hall for violating the Brown Act by continuing discussion of a Council majority outside the publicly noticed business before them. And the excuse, “well they told me to” is not going to hold up, especially if they all use whatever legal adviser Kris Murray is relying on these days.
I need to start attending more Council meetings!