Costa Mesa residents raised questions this week over why city leaders deviated from their own procedure and possibly the law by not including the starting time on their official notice for a hastily scheduled meeting on the city's charter proposal.
Also, city spokesman Bill Lobdell gave out a starting time that would have had residents arriving 30 minutes late to Tuesday’s special meeting. Ultimately the meeting was canceled.
The city’s standard practice has been to include the specific starting time on notices of City Council meetings, including meetings following another session.
But the agenda for Tuesday’s special meeting to decide whether to pay a consultant $154,000 to conduct a special election in June on the proposed charter didn’t include a starting time. Instead it stated the special meeting would start after the conclusion of another meeting.
“I thought it was bizarre that they didn’t have a time,” said Sandy Genis, a former Costa Mesa mayor.
The city canceled the meeting just hours before it was set to begin, citing legal concerns over the notice. It hasn’t been rescheduled.
The state open meetings law, known as the Ralph M. Brown Act, requires special meeting notices to “specify the time” of the meeting. The agenda for Tuesday’s special meeting stated only that it would “begin immediately following” a study session.
Tuesday’s council study session ended just before 5 p.m. Lobdell, however, had sent emails to reporters the previous day stating the special meeting “will start at approximately 5:30 p.m.”
The decision to deviate from standard practice and not specify the meeting’s starting time was made after discussion withf top city managers, according to the deputy city clerk.
In the past, City Clerk Julie Folcik had included starting times on all special meeting agendas. But Folcik has been on administrative leave after the city missed the state-mandated filing deadline to place the charter issue on June's primary ballot.
In Folcik's absence, city management and city clerk staff discussed the timing issue before the agenda was posted, said Deputy City Clerk Christine Cordon.
She would neither confirm nor deny whether top city management rejected a desire by city clerk staff to include a specific meeting time. “We decided it would say ‘immediately [following the study session],’ ” said Cordon.
Lobdell didn’t return several messages seeking comment, including a question asking whether top city officials rejected a desire by Cordon to include the starting time.