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City hit with lawsuit over park swap (Malibu Times)

by Knowles Adkisson and Melissa Caskey on April 17, 2013

After hinting at legal action for several weeks, the civic group Malibu Township Council (MTC) filed suit last week the City of Malibu and the Malibu City Council for alleged violations of state open meeting and public record laws.

The civil suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday by MTC attorney Frank Angel, alleges city officials violated the Ralph M. Brown Act by “secretly negotiating” a proposal to swap 532 acres of city-owned Charmlee Wilderness Park in western Malibu in exchange for 83 acres of Malibu Bluffs Park controlled by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC).

The Brown Act is an open meetings law that guarantees the public’s access to government meetings and prohibits secret meetings of government bodies. Regarding the five-person Malibu City Council specifically, the act theoretically prohibits more than two council members from discussing public business before it is debated at a public forum.

The MTC lawsuit alleges multiple violations of the Brown Act, including that Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin shared an email informing all five council members of the proposed swap after Mayor Lou La Monte and Joan House met with SMMC representatives in mid- December.

The proposal was not discussed in public until the Jan. 14 City Council meeting.

Another alleged violation regards an email sent by Councilwoman Laura Rosenthal to Mayor Lou La Monte and Mayor Pro Tem Joan House on Dec. 24, obtained by MTC through a Freedom of Information Act request from the City of Malibu.


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