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Inside Lee Brand's attempt to reshape police oversight

Tap Dancing in a Political and Legal Minefield

So, if the police auditor reports to the City Manager as authorized by the City Council on March 24, 2009; and the City Manager reports to the Mayor as authorized by the City Charter; and the nine voting members of the Citizens Public Safety Advisory Board are appointed solely by the Mayor; and the Mayor can have all the volunteer advisory boards he desires; why is Mayor Brand wasting his time by bringing all this paperwork to the council this Thursday for a formal vote?

Because Brand has himself in a pickle.

Brand has got to make this Board a reality. He promised to deliver the Board throughout the hard-fought mayoral campaign against Henry R. Perea last fall. Perea, who received strong support from the police union, opposed the Board idea. Brand leveraged his support for the Board into better-than-expected voter support in precincts well south of Shaw Avenue (home to many of the activists who routinely criticize the police).

Brand knows that his proposal is a major change in the OIR legislation passed by the City Council eight years ago. Brand was one of the council members voting for the legislation. He knows he must get council approval on Thursday to radically change the nature of the police auditor’s job.

Brand knows the Citizens Public Safety Advisory Board, given its immense power under the bylaws, could end up being a devastatingly effective anti-police weapon should the Board’s membership take a radical turn. Therefore, the Board’s membership must be totally controlled by the Mayor. Having each council member appoint one member and the Mayor appoint two (nine total) is too risky for Brand.

At the same time, having the council appoint seven of the nine council members would turn the Board into a legislatively-appointed board.

“All meetings (of the Board) shall be closed to the public and shall not be subject to the provisions of the Ralph M. Brown Act,” states Article IV, Section 1 of the Bylaws. The Brown Act is the state’s Open Meeting Act.

Legislatively-appointed advisory boards are subject to the Brown Act. Advisory boards appointed by a single public decision-maker (such as Brand) are not subject to the Brown Act.

So, Brand is saying to the council: Approve my bylaws that create major changes to council-approved legislation of March 24, 2009 that created the Office of Independent Review; give me your moral and political support in my creation of the Citizens Public Safety Advisory Board; and agree with me that your approval of all this is, in no way, a legislative approval of the Citizens Public Advisory Board because such an approval would make the Board subject to the state Open Meeting Law, thus blowing my whole idea right out of the water.

I don’t know what makes the Citizens Public Advisory Board so special that its nine community members can’t do their work in front of their neighbors’ eyes.

I don’t know what makes the City Council so unworthy that it shouldn’t be allowed to appoint its share of members to the Citizens Public Advisory Board.

And I don’t know why Brand’s proposal is an improvement over what we’ve already got.

George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.

1 Comment

  1. Plus, there is already a board advising the Police Chief. The Police Chief’s Citizen Advisory Board.

    It does have a representative from each of the Council Districts plus area leaders from various city support groups. These meetings are open and the minutes are available online.

    I have represented Council District 2 since Brian Calhoun’s term.

    But, this board does not serve the purpose the new mayor wants.

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