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Your Secret

Reprint of the Series of Stories
Leading to Califurnia's First Open Meeting Law
Michael Harris
As published in the
Snn ffrmmo[Fso
By Michael Hanis
No law can be effective unless it is enforced.
Those who want the Ralph M. Brown Act to be obeyed
are fortunate inthe factthatithas enjoyed the sewices of
hundreds of amateur prosecutom since its adoption in
1953. Newspaper reporters, members of the public and
some vigilant public officials have found the act has
helped them in their efforts to leam what their govem-
ment is doing.
Indeed, the act had many friends even before it
took form. There are stories where a single reporter
working alone can claim sole responsibility for the
results. The series that led to the Brown Act was not one
of them.
The inspiration for the series was conventional
enough. In the course of two days I took stories over the
telephone from three reporters who explained that they
could give only partial accounts of what transpired at
public meetings because they were barred from the room
where decisions were made. It seemed clear that
Califomia's laws on the conduct of public business were
I began my study at the Berkeley campus of the
University of Califomia, where Eugene C. Lee and
Stariley Scou, members of what was later renamed the
Institute of Govemmental Studies, instructed me in the
state's laws goveming public meetings. The most star-
tling thing I leamed was that while the law required local
agencies to conduct business publicly, they were not
required to announce when or where they would meet.
As I leamed later, meetings were sometimes held at odd
hours and in unexpected places.
At Gene Lee's suggestions, I then met with
Richard Graves, executive director of the League of
Califomia Cities, who said he would help work on an
open meeting law after I completed my research
with one stipulation. He said most of the text would of
course be written in legal language, but I would have to
write the preamble stating the law's purpose in plain
language that could be understood without a legal edu-
The law has gradually become longer and far
more detailed over the years, but the two-paragraph
preamble remains intact.
After these interviews, it was time to start look-
ing for examples. In Santa Rosa, for example, Fred
F1etcher, who was covering county govemment for the
Press Democrat, described his frusuation at belng ex-
cluded from the meetings of the Board of Supen'ison. In
traveling through the Bay Area, I received help from
Bruce Benedict, Hale Champion, Ratph Craib. Ed Davis,
Havelock Hunter, August Sairanen, Ph1'llis Seidkin. \'ic
Stier, Kenneth Wilson and others whose names have
unjustly faded from memory.
The law itself was written in an aftemoon in col-
laboration with Richard Carpenter, legal counsel of the
League of Califomia Cities, who later succeeded Drck
Graves as executive director. Mimeographed copies of
the proposed bill were distributed at a conferenrc of the
Califomia Newspaper Publishers Association, w'here I
was invited to report on the open meeting series. Jack
Craemer, then managing editor of the San Rafael
Independent-Joumal and head of the association's Free-
dom of Information Committee, mailed a copy to As-
semblyman Ralph M. Brown.
Ralph Brown introduced the bill, fought off
efforts to weaken it, and with the help of effective
persuasion by Richard Graves and officials of the CNPA,
saw the measure become law. A number of legislaton
continued working to extend the Brown Act's goais,
notably former Assemblyman William T. Baglel' and
State Senator Barry Keene.
Some of the people who helped so much are no
longer with us. If I may have the privilege of dedicating
this reprint, I want to do so in the memory of the late
Bruce Benedict, Havelock Hunter, Augy Sairanen and
especially the late Richard Graves and Ralph Brown.
May 25. 1952 - Part 1 Bl Micha.el Harris
Your Secret Government: lt Comes in Many Guises
SINCE th.e Notion's beginning
Arn er ic ans lw,u e fu e n
ne r n e d
with seret government;'Star
chamber sessian" uas a
ing phrose in 1776, and. has
been euer sirrce.
In the effot't to keep publb
seruants doing public business
publb ui.ew, sucess has
been generolly prcportionate to
th.e amount of interest shnl n b1r
the public.
This is the
of o seies of
ariiclcs dcaling utith this prob-
lern of gouernrnent-behind-
clased-d.oors as it at the
Leal - thc Bay Area - l.euel.
"Meetlngs shall be publlc."
For school boards, the
Callfornta Government
Code requlres: "No actlon
authorlzed or requlred by
law shall be taken by the
board ot a school
distrlct except ln e meetlng
open to the public."
For Supervlsors: "All meet-
lngs of the Board of Super-
vtsorr strall be
There are rlmllar requlre-
menls ,or other publlc
cles whlch have the power,
among other thlngs, to declde
what type ot sgrvtces thc
State's voters end taxpeyers
wlll recelve and how much
they wlll be regulred to pay
for them.
And, ln addltton, the
records whlch tell vhEt the
counclls and boerds heve done
must, by law, be open for pub-
llc lnrpcctlon
8o readr the code. And to
tome, whose knowledge ot
legal affelrs tr cllm, the code
E8y appear to be plein.
It ba.r been seld thet whet
lokr lllc r brlck well to lay.
mcn msy ln reallty be e trl-
umphrl arch to one verred tn
thc ways ot the lew.
trlumphel arch lc
thc ceucus.
A rccond tr thc prEctlce
holdlDg sh8t 8rc consldered
tor legal purpocs
to bc
llc" meetlngs et unannounced
t'imes Bnd ln unannounced
Curtain of Sccrccy
For the surtaln of secrccy
whlch falls between lndlvld-
uals and tlrelr goyernmrtt
exlsts not only ln Washlngton,
where examples o! secrecy ln
b'rt ln the Bay Area as well.
In Weshlngtm, lt ls gen-
crally rgrecd thet somc met-
ten bvolvlng tlrc Nation's
rcur{ty must bc dlsctused and
declded ln contldence so that
potmtlal enemies cannot learn
the detells ol Amerlca's mlll-
tary strategy..
But ln the Bay Area the
problems lacing local unlts ol
government are apt to be ot
no great moment to the states-
men ln the
great capltals of
Europe and Asia. They are
more llkely to be such matters
hlgher taxes, dlfflculties in
school system, pay ralses
tor public offtcials and the
Thero Are Erceptionr
The true of closed meetlng
at which many of these mat-
are considered is known
by a variety of names: caucus,
star cbamber, exequtive ses-
slon, commlttee-of-the-whole,
pre-corncil meetlng, work Ses-
slon and-perhaps most eu-
phonlous bf all-study meet-
Whatever the name, lt
mearu the same thing. As
the word ls used by persons
ln local govern-
ment ln the Bay Area, a cau-
cus is a closed meeting of a
souncll or board.
There are exceptlons, but
most ol the public bodles in
the'Bay Area hold some Cau-
cus meetings.
The reasons
In a
Einorlty ol councils and
boards the closed sessions are
held only to consider charges
brought against
clals and employees. The be-
liel on these boards ls that
the charges should be checked
first to see if they are valid.
If they are considered flrst ln
publlc, lt is reasoned, lrrep-
arable harm could hefall the
reputations of honest, inno-
cent persons.
Complicates Problem
There are many persons-
certalnly the overwhelmi:rg
majorlty of those questioned
by The Chronicle in the course
of thls survey of caucus gov-
ernment-who firmly belleve
that closed meetings ln such
cases are essential in the in-
terests of ordinary, human
This belief cannot be lg-
nored, of course. And obyiously
It compltcates the problerns ol
keeplng publlc buslness ln the
For what may be termecl
"legltlmate" iaucus serves
as an openlnB wedge for some
publtc bodies to do the bulk
of thelr work in secret. A sur-
vey ol the Bay Area by The
Chronicle lndlcated that ln
some cases boards and coun-
cils perform vlrtually all pub-
lic buslness behind closed
doors except the actual pas-
sage of resolutlons and ordi-
The publlc meetlng whlch
follows a caucus may be ex-
tremely brief. A matter which
is debated ln a closed meeting
for hours mey be introduced
in a meetlng,
to pub-
lic scrutl!y lor an instant,
voted on and enacted into
Iaw in a matter of seconds.
The vote ltself is considet'ed,
ln a lelal sense, the only work
the publlc body performs.
Real Ertate Matters
A parallel mtght be to con-
sider that the only work a
housewlfe does when she bakes
a ple is to take the pie out ol
the oven when it is ready tor
Real estate matters.are fie-
quently constdered in caucus.
It is argued ihat secrecy ls
required ln cases *here a pub-
lic body wants to consider
what land purchases
it will
make ln the future. Il ttle
slles are disclosed months or
years in advance, lt ls leared,
the announcement will be the
signal for
to be erected to
lncrease the price of the prop-
But thls secrecy can also
resuit ln having prlvate indl-
viduals unwittlngly construct
substantlal bulldirlgs on land
they have no ldea they will
have to give up and the ln-
.can seriously
compllcate their lives,"
San Franclsco,s
dlrector of plannlng,
Many publlc
bodles hold
caucuses' be-
fore their meetings start so
the members ean get
arr ex-
ol the buslness eom-
ing up and know what they
are votlng on.
' Members of the public
tlmes llnd lt dllficult to fol-
low the deliberations, how-
ever, wlthout the benefit of
the same explanations.
Some groups which bar the
general pubuc
from thelr
caucures admlt cert6in indi-
vlduals. Sometimes those ad-
mltted are the newspeper re-
porters ettcndlng the meetlng
Sometlmes they are real estate
or promlneni lndi-
viduals ln the communlcy who
want to meeb prlvaiely wtth
the council or board to ask
for speclal favors.
For some' bodles even the
ol doing all the
baslc work ln prlvate and then
simply taking a Iormal vote
ln the open ls too publtc for
their comfort.
So they take aitvantage of
the second triumphal arch
and hold unannounced meet-
lngs lnstead.
Th6se are what the term
lmplies-meetings whlch are
qutetly called by tbe board's
chairman. Sometlmes they are
held on nights or afternoons
when the bo5rd does not nor-
mally .meet. Or a procedure
some boards favor is io wait
untll the public has gon
home after a regular meetlng
is adjourned and then, lree
from scrutiny, reconvene and
get to work. on controverelel
In the Bay Area, the prac-
tlce of holding such "sneak
meetings" is most common on
the part of ochool aud spriclal
dlstrict boards.
Naturally boards whlch
practlce these tactlce wlnd up
ln court once ln a whtle. But
nob often. For the courts.have
held in some ol the cases that
their meetlngs are putiltc
all Iegal purposes.
Some boards achieve prlvacy
by behg hostlle to members
of the public attendlng their
meetingq and manage to drive
away thelr audiences.
Manual of Advice
Even where hostillty does
not exlst, there seems to be
an altltude
among school offtctall- that
to attend ni'eettngs
is a fevor whlch boards can
or wlthbold.
The 'iManual for School
Board Members" issued by the
Callf ornla' School trusteei As-
soclstion for. fhe guldance
new' school board members
olfers thls advice on the Sub-
of lettlng the public
wlrat the bodrd ls doinA:
ls a matter
for dec.lslon by the indivldual
board. Some boards foilow the
of lnviting reporters
from the local papers
to at-
tend meetings and publish
such reports as may be
common lnterest; othCr boaids
to submit inlormative
artlcies for local publlcailon
trom time to time, or even on
speclfic zubJects."
May 26. 1952 - Part 2
COITRSE, Supervlsor
Erlward R. McDonald
ol Burllngamc Pas only
ldddlng., But, hls fellow
memberrs on ttre 8an Mateo
Cormty Board ot Super-
vtsors egreed the resolutlon
he fotroduced was p.retty
tunn5l, and so they passed
"Tlhereas, the San Mato
County Board ol Super-
vlsors has been accused ln
tDe public press
and else-
where of conducti:rg county
buslness tn smoke - lilled
aeucus roorns;
Phereas, lt ls the tn-
tcnt ol tIrls board to see ttrat
all county business be'con-
ducted ln a cleau and health-
lul rranner;
't{os, therefore, be lt re-
rolved tJret hencefortlr tthere
shlll be no smoklng at any
csucur sesslon of thls Board
A! st8td, the matter was e
lo[e. The resolution was
wrltten tor tJre ccaston by Al
Bodl ol the Rcdwood Ctty
Trlbure, me of the repcteri
tob lt ts to try to naa
ort whet the Supervlsors are
lor, ol oourse, there wls
ra ecaslon. Thc resolu$on
trs e hlstory.
Thc rtory begen elmost a
tG$ ago. At that tJme e pay
tr,lre wss proposed
tor some
o! the county's elected offl-
The Supervlsors took the
natter under advisement.
Then, sllence. The matter
was not discussed again at
boerd meetings. There were
lro public hiarings.
Suddeniy on last December
{, a resolution--<omplete
a salary schedule-was lntro-
duced gtving pay raises to ten.
eleded otficials
lng the Supervlsofs them-
selves). It was seconded, and
the Supervlsors passed lt
unanlmously wtthout dlscus-
The lack of publlc hearlngs
had one unexpected effect.
The board's membersi learned
that they had overlooked Jus-
tlce of the Peace Edward I.
McAulllfe ol ll,edwood City
when the
raises were
passed out. So on December
of the Caucus
t8 [h!'[oriid:pisred a speclsl
resolutton,tbtlng care ot htm.
E. R. StqUDgs,
lald ttrc
Supenlsors meet ln hls
ofllce half an horr before
the start ol tJrelr lorma'
meetlngs. : They Bre th0re
he'sald, to
lrom hlm. end to hear lron
$ho w8nt to talk prt-
vstely r{th them.
Mdmberr ot thi publlc dc
-:t attead'thc cgucuses, Stal-
tlngi addord, but be sald he
saw rro reclon they coirld not
do so--thougb they would not
to rensln tn the
room when some pollcy mat-
ters came up.
?ublic tnfonnetion
bcnellt lron hold-
tng ceucrutes
tire san
Mlteo Courtlrouse they are
md! otten relerred to as
'study neetlngs") ts thet the
rqlease of pubUc tnlqmatlon
cd,n bb "tlmed" better, stal.
lings conUnued-
"Thlg lsn'! exactly e ques-
tion ol publlc lnlormaHon or
what the public ls entlUed to
Irlow,"'Stalltngs e:platiied"
"There are Iots of mettirs
tJrat aren't ready to be pub-
llclzod that I heve to take
up wltlr the Supervlsors. Nat-
urally, I want them to learn
from me what projects
I am
working on."
One proJect Stalllngs seld
he had undertaken ln e dls-
creet tnanner was the lnsur-
&nce coverege ol county em-
't came to belleve that tire
tosurance coverage evallable
.on ttre county's voluntaqr ln-
surance plan
lor lts Grn-
was not as
as lt
should be," StAlllngs sald"
"But I wanted to have e bet-
ter plan
3eady belore I an-
nounced that publlcly.
wlse, every tlme I welked
down the hall county em-
would stop and ask
me questlons I wabnt pre-
to snEwer. and besldes.
every lhsuranie'agent tn'tnd
cgunty would turn up ln my
"Eyen es lt l,s, aome tniur-
snce agents have learned
aboutthe study and have ap-
at the CourtJrouse.,
Bond lguct
The arurouncements of
bond tssue votes should llf,e-
rdse be delayed untll qll
fact*'have. been gatJrered
by_ the Supervlsors,
therc mlgbt be.publlc confu-
slm end worthwhlle bond ls-
sues mlght IBll to be
\trhlle tJte publlc
mlght et-
Dend some c&ucuses of the
38n Msteo County Board of
3upervlsors, there ls no room
lor doubt ln Sen Bruno. When
;he Clty Counctl mqets ln
:ouctrs to-rescb decldms be-
f-ore t
e lorzral vote, the
loors of the caucul room are
Sometlmes an eflort tB
mede to keep even the dcct-
sloru Eecret. The Corincll de-
clded recently tD a closed
meetlng that tt wented to
make mator changes ln the
tor tlre Ctty Hall whlch
ls to be bullt ln San Bruno.
The clty employees attending
ttte meeting were forbl{den t6
dlseuss the changes publlcly.
"Ttrere ls more secrecy here
than I ever saw," M. C. Slank-
ard, the new- clty man&ger
of San Bruno, sald.
approve ot it. The Councll
knows that. But, ol course,
I only work here."
Slankard has worked lor
municipalitles elsewhere tl
the Bay Atea and in Oregon
where he was clty managel
of Roseburg and Tillamook.
"We never had any closed
meetings at all tn Oregon,,'
Slankard sald.
"It was the
opinlon of those in
olfice that they should meet
openly to show that every-
thlng was above board.,,
Degreet of Secrecy
The degrees.of secrecy ln
vary not only
lrom cojnmunlty to commu-
nity but also from room to
room. There were, for ln-
stance, two caucus meetings
on at once one nlght
not so long ago ln the San
Mateo City Hall.
The Ctty Corincil was meet-
lng in a "stu{y session" ln the
offlce of City Manager Arthur
B. Sullivan. The door was not
It was open, however, only
to the press. The Council has
declded it wants to have study
meetings so it can understand
the city's problems
Councilman C. M. Spears ex-
plained; but, he added, it has
also decided it would be poor
to meet without having
some "neutrals" present.
The reporters may print
what goes
on at the meetings,
Bt Michael Hamis
though ia some cases they are
requested to omit parts
of the
dlscussion lrom their arti-
eles. The dectslon on what
to prlnt and what to omit ls
left_uB to the aewspapers,
Ttrere ts nothtng ln the taw
whlch glyes newsrnen this
speelal prlvilege.
A reporter's
rlght to attend a meeting or
to look at publlc
records is
slmply the same rlght that
any cltizen bas, according to
the law.
A couplc of rooms away,
there was e locked door. Be-
tt, the-city's Planning
Q6rnml*d611 was greetlng.
A Chronlcle reporter rapped
on the door, and lt was opened
ror e- moment.
.said he wanted to attend thc
"Frankly, havtng you
rupt us t'his way ls
we're trying to avold,', Fyank
E. Emerson, the commisslon's
chalrman, said.
The reporter asked lt a ma-
Jority ol the commisslon
agreed with the chairman.
The response was unanimoirs.
shqwn clearly thab they
believed thelr privacy
was bel
ing invaded.
'lMa_ybe Emerson mtght say
something or I might say
something about one of thesl
matters before us,,, one of the
members sald after the re-
might arg.ue.
And then we'd be quoted
the paper."
The Commlsslon also holds
publlc meetings to take formal
votes. The public ls admitted
to t4ese and Ls allowed to
'Op6n House'
ago the Sequole
Unlon High School Dlstrlct
Board showed how lts mem-
bers lnierpreted the require-
ment that meetlngs be publlc.
The board held s brlef meet-
lng and adjourned to attend
an "open house" at the school.
Then, after the public
gone home, the board met
agaln and decided not to re-
new the contracts of nine
teachers. It lgnored the re-
some of them had made
earlier for a chance to present
thelr cases.
Alter tbe board's actlon, the
leeebers flled sult, charglng
t'hbt ttre board had violated
State law by dolng publtc
bwlness behlnd closed doors.
Two cairdldates' tor the
school board
charges at communlty meet-
Ilrere were two.results.. tri'lrst,
the boald relented and lls-
tened to each ot:the. teeehers
ln turn. Apparently there was
some room lor dlspute as to
whetber the board had been
arbltrary ln the dhmlssals, lor
alter ltstenlng to the nlne
teachers lt rehlred two .ot
Rerult of Secrecy
The second result was that
ttte two candldates opBosed to
secret meetlngs were elected
to the board. By now not one
of the flve members who was
on the'board whlch dlsmlssed
the teachers remalns ln offlce.
And the sult? Well, the
teachers lost that. The door
to the superlntendent's offlce,
where the board met, was not
locked durLrg the meetlng.
There ls nq legal requlrement
ln San Mateo county that the
times of school board meet-
lngs must be announeed lir
advance. So the Court ruled
that the board had met pub-
UcIy and that no law had been
Ceucus meetlngs are held
ln other communltles ln San
Mateo county as wdU.' ne-
cently the Burllngame Ad-
vance prlnted
a serles of eru-
May 27. 1952 - Part 3
Councllmen. got up
I and left the room.
Thls was a matter to be
settled ln
they ex-
The audience ln San
Jose's dlmlnutlve Ctty Hall
remalned behlnd ln the
counell charnbers. And,
after a vhile, the Council-
men trooped back and an-
nounced their declslon.
cles descrlblng the dllftculfies
Its reporters ln the northern
of the county, had ln
lnlormlng trhe pubUc
of what
was happenlng ln thelr com-
fn many cases, the repott-
ers found, the clty clerks and
other clty employees regarded
what.went on ln the cltt haUg
'rnobody's buslness but
Oursi." .Irie Councllmen and
the Meyors somettmes seemed
to belleve ttrat thelr elecilon
to olllce gavethem
e lree pass
to do
Just aboutwhatever
chose to.
"The mere prlnilng
of fhe
Iacts lsn't gotng
to stop caucus
Ted Wget, ed-
Itor of the Burllngaine
local papers
h-aye to keep httttng it'tne
And, flnally, lt's
up to the public.',
B! Michael Harris
repcirte-d tha.t. they-
reply to Mr. Burnett
had gone over ttre petition of
was lf he wtuld conzult, with
o! 38Q
-parcels .of
the City Attorney the follow_
land in Bradley Manor who
ir,g m6rnhg h6 would get
obJected to having thelr sub-
wh'atever informatton iie
divi,qles &nnexed by the City.
needed,', the Mayor said.
f Ll*,%%'ti'iiS:if,llt}*:"f.1"#i,,:'.,t,*,ft*t
The reJection seemed to_ln-
tno anneiation.
yqltdete the petltlon.
trre counsli niA acle6- arli
386. sisnatures, the
rylfrql F"ruv
in ieiirsrnf t_i-".,iiit
enough nar,nes- to
blck an annexatlon elecilon.
rn"i*"". two ye&rs
ago, end
Wttr only 320, lt did not.
th;:;r"-'fi*" been tur
A.ttorney Joh! M. Burnett,
who represented some ol the ..--.1--
stood up end
Appeal Gourt
spoke to the counctl. Superlor Judge l-eonard R.
Avllla of Santa Clara county
the Clty Councll had
acted lllegelly ln reJecttng the
signatures. The councll ap-
Receptly the Flrst Court of
Appeal ln San ftancisco
held that the counclll acilon
was lllegal.
"A closed hearlng out bf the
of the protestants
not the kind ol hearing con-
templated by Government
Code," the oplnion stated.
What ls demanded, the court
added, ls "a fair and impar-
tial hearlng at whlch
evlderrce may
be presented.',
BuC this oplnlon has not
convlnced Mayor Bradley.
"Th6 court mlsunderstood
the case," sald bradley, e law-
"The matter wascr,t cor-
rectly reported
ln the nress.
and lt wasn:t correcfly'prel
sented ln court,.i
The_ court rullng hai pre-
vented the Ctty trom annex_
rng, Bradley
Manor but lt
seems to h*vc bad Utile other
-t fp
not, for lnstance,
ended the council,s hablt oi
doing a conslderable
sfrare oi
york ln pr-lvate
rts regular,
starts at 4 p. m. on days when
rne couneu meets, and con_
tlnues lor four hours. Food ts
sent In from the outslde.
8 p.
m. the caucus ends
and the councll starts tte puU-
lic session.
Secrecy Rule
Reporters may remaln for
most ol the flme durtug the
caucus sesslons,
sald City
Manager Anthony p.
But, he added, they do have to
agree. to one thldg. They
nave to agree, he sald, noi to
what they seO dr what
they hear.
Mayor Bradley denied that
ts actually required
to submit to a policy
oi se_
"We Just ask the reportgrs
Why Have a Closed Hearing?
Whet, he asked, was wtong
wltlr the 60 nampsl'
Councit Won't Tatk
The council refused to tell.
"The lnformatlon was .not
out ln open counci.
meetlng on the edvlce of our
Ctty Attorney," Mayor Clark
Ir Bladley explatned recently.
Mayor and the rnanor
have the same name, but
neither ls narned tor the
othqr, Just
f, colncidence.)
to clear with us what they ecutive, and Howard W. Cam- be a falrly typlcal example ol
want to print," the Mayor said.
pen, the cbunty counsel. Super' what we do'
Both the Mayor and the city
M' McKinnon was
"The board .has
rarely, 1l
manager Sald ihe long caucui
.. eYer, reached a decision lnfor-
meettigs are held fn-ttJf":
meetlng so
mally and then
put it lnto law
terest dl elflclency. Th;; a;-
Anderson colld learn he
lose a
niiA itriitfri cdu:ncU ;ilg' i,
the cholce.of. resigning or tre-
declslon may siy the matter
ao iftings secretly. [rB
llred at.the next Board of
was cut and-dried ln advance,
star chamber cessrons
i.:TTrY# *":ifiPrf w;l':
but lt
lsn't correct'
are open enough," Hamann
ii;;;il;;;oarenf,ly to opare
"The board's only etfort ls
they were dlscon-
to reach'c deelslon whlch lt
tinued, the councll would be
idi-a-rici-rfifctr-irlgtrt tiave
believes is wise on behall ot
forced to go underground."
;ppeil;d moiJ ctriittable lt
the people."
ln San Jose or else-
altg.ndlng the meetlng
Sometlmes the matter ot
where ln the Bsy erea, puU-
had kept the secret.
whether meetlngs are open or
llc officials who
tnformrl Mectinrt
not ls academlc. Few attend
closed doors maln'tatn,.t[ey
Whet actur
t3f,,.tn. s*g'l#+i'ffi
tn mosr cases, thar. rl:y,ll:
hongst and pubUc-sprrrreo
io" r., aio.i;!;;il;;;;;_
curzins. rhey iay.rhey rry rc
run*y ," ,r-i$ii.{il#ffi::
"l: ijr^fiii: c*y coun-
be as talr as posslble'
cl|s meeilngs are weu at-
"frlii' ""T.'u
"?"Bt?rrr!31? -Tl.,!.o:rj's
members olten tended. But much or the work
wal orif, feini
,practic-at;,'ilii meet lnlormally. ls done in commlttee, and
i[:f *{,ti'*-'*""iq5i
be a zon in
m at:
H,Ei*:.T,1it"i"tlf liltn:
or sup}.iiii.
e_xplalned supervlsor misslon.
n. O. tSanay) Wool in san
Campbell, who
far as my commlttee is
concerned, no
ls ever
caucur se,sion
3?',1?i"'; ;""xi:"ii,!:-l'''lla'-fff
1.,"1'.f ;i.,HT'gl',p
Boerd Chalrman Wllliam S. matter was comlng up and ii'"
and supervisor Arthur that r would llke to go lnto lt "
MontrQull' chalrman of the
Brown and Earl C. Campbell turther UeforJttre lfird-aooi
fuUUc Wcrks Commltte,
;;;; th;i;;atoni witn Joiann actton. r miitrt ivin eipresi
D. Anderson, the county ex- my views on it. That would
person who wanls to
May 28. 1952 - Part 4
talk with us can come indlfid-
ually or ln a group. They can
bring a newspaper reporter
along . wlth them lf they
want to."
But, Montroull added, thc
committee will not permit out-
siders to attend the dellbera-
tions at'which it decides on lts
"Making a recommendaUon
isn't tbe same as passlng a
law," Montroull said. "They
aren't always accepted by the
councll. There are only five
on a committee and 15
on the council. Even it you
wanted to, how could you
trol 15 people?"
Cathcart, chalr-
man of thri Finance Commlt-
tee, said his group's closed
meetings s,re conductd for
efflclency, not tor secrecy.
"There are two purposes tor
public meetings," Cathcart
said, "and the Palo Albo Coun-
cll satisfies both of them. One
is to let the publte see the
councilmen ln aetion snd be
able to Judge their quallfica-
tions. The other ls to know
each councilman's siiand on
any particular matter.
"It would be lmposslble un-
der our councll and commlttee
set-up for anyone to conceal
a comupt deal."
By Michael Harris
Sessions'Are Common in Contra Costa
r.YO PIIBLIC' announce-
I\ ment had been madd
that the meeting would be
held, but a rePorter was
there. so were a few mem-
bers of
learned about it somehow.
Tttey rere all askqd to
Etliott Johnson, chairman
of the Central Contra Costa
Sanltary District, exPlalned
that the dlltrict's dlreetors
were holdlng
only." The
sould not be allowed to
hear tJre
"No action will be taken,"
. IIaII an hour later Johnson
ordered the district's assist-
ant secretary to step into the
deserted hallway of the trim
Ilttle redwood district head-
on Mount Diablo
Boulevard ln Walnut Creek.
The assistant secretary, at
Johnson's order, announced to
the empty space that a public
Eeeting was about to begin
and anyone who cared to at-
tend migbt do so.
Maklng this announeement'
It was reasoned, satisfied the
lesal requirement
that the
board could take official ac-
tlons only in
The board then Proceeded
co to work It voted 3 to 2 to
iUotisn the
position of district
the $850-a-
of James L. Mason.
Mason and Johnson had
gotten along badly for some
tlme, but Mason had been able
to survlve ln hls
On this
occaslon, however, Mason could
not defend hlmself. Johnson
drove over to the meetlng
from his estate in Lafayette,
but Mason was absent. He was
on leave to the United States
Gets StorY
The details of the meeting,
whtch took Place
on March 25
ot tnis
yeai, did not remain
secret fdr long. Lester Sipes
ot the Oakland
Tribune, t'he
reporter Johnson had sent
got tbe full story for hls
Johnson was asked for a
statement by The Chronicle.
"I have no comment to
rrake at all," Johnson rePlied.
Chronicle isn't interested
tn our board, and I don't care
to talk about it. What wb did
you can see in the minutes. I
won't discuss what we dtd be-
hlnd closed doors."
This was not the first time
ttre board had taken "public"
action after sending the pub-
llc away.
The mlnutes of the Jan. 18,
1951, meeting show that the
board decided to hold an ex-
ccutlve sesslon after the close
of the meeting to consider the
request of Claude M. McPhee,
a right-of-way agent, for a
salary lncrease. After votlug
to hold lts next meeting at 8
p. m. February 1, the board
adjourned to begin its unof-
llcial, private conference on
McPhee's salary.
But the board did not wait
until Febmary 1 to hold its
next meeting. For the next
cntry ln the minutes reads:
meetlng ol the
dlstrict board of Central Con-
tra Costa Sanitary Distrlct
beld Jan. 18, 1951."
It was at thts meeting that
the board voted McPhee a $50
monthly pay ralse. No one
wanted to endanger McPhee's
boost in pay, and so there was
no protest over the board's
procedure in grantlng lt.
But the Precedent
for thls
year's action had been set.
Thls is not the only board in
Contra Costa countY which
has held unannounced "Pub-
Iic" meetings. So, for examPle,
have the Richmond school
Dr. George D. Miner, Rich-
mond school suPerintendent,
told of an unannounced
meetlng ol the Board of Edu-
cation and the Hlgh School
Board on Jan. 26, 1950, at
which some school pollcy
matters had been settled and
a dean of boys appointed for
El Cerrito High School.
meetlng of both
boards was held at which
meeting the personnel policies
discussed ln executive session
were brought up and acted
upon,!' Dr. Miner wrote two
months after the meeting.
"The results of this meetin--s
have been given
wide publicl
qna I am sure you
familiar with them.,,
Since then, Dr. Miner said,
have decided
agalnst holding any more un_
Closed Doors
But this has not ended the
. practice.
of deciding
matters behind
closed Ooors-
"It's much easier for the
Board of Education to dis-
cuss policy in private,,,
Miner said. "We discuss every-
thlng we can about any suL-
that comes up in execu-
tive sesslons."
Dr. Mlner said he wished
the lligh School Board
meet in executive session more
oftbn than it does. But its
members are too busy to hold
a sufflcient, number bt closea
meetings, he added.
ln thepublic meetings
of the Rtchlnond distrlct:s
two school boards there has
been an element of surprlse.
Some school boards distribute
coples of thelr agendas
eral days before each meet_
rng so parents
and other
of the public
know what is to be discussed
and can decide whether
attend the meeting.
In Richmond, however, Dr.
Miner said, it has been the
to.distribute the
agenda/for a meeting until e
has appeared and the
meeting is about to begin.
Swift Meeting
When the meetlng does
start, it sometlmes goes
ly. Ben Rust, president
the AFL California Federation
of Teachers, said that last
spring he and another repre-
sentative of the unlon ap-
at 7:32 p.
m. at, a
school board meeting
scheduled to start at ?:3b
m. When he asked to
speak about the salary sched-
ule, Rust sald, he was totO,
"That matter has already
been attended t0.,,
In two mtnutes the chalr-
man had convened the meet-
ing and called the roll. The
mtnutes of the previous
lng had been approved.
th-e board had voted on a Iong
schedule lisilng the salary ioi
the next yeer
ol every teacher
in the clty's hlgh schools.
':Of course, f shouldn,t have
grrived two minutes tate,;
Rust. said.
then, tt
mlght be reasonable
to ex_
the board to take.more
than two minutes to ognsider
the pay schedules for the
Dr. Miner confirmed the ln-
By contrast, the Richmond
City Council does its work in
tbe open.
Contra Costa
So do many councils ln ihe
northern part of Contra Costa
county. For example, there
ls Concord, named for the
Massachuetk town where an
early battle of the lVar ol In-
dependence was fought.
There are normal communl-
ty controversies which reach
Concord's council. For the
most part,
they are settled in
the open.
When the council held
a special meeting recently,
Mayor James H. Sheehan was
distressed to flnd that no re-
were present.
were there any rfiembers o!
ihe publtc.
So the mayor telephoned
two reporters from local news-
and told them to gulp
down their dinners and ge1
work. Whlle he was waiting
for them to arrive, he weni
outside and lnvited passersby
to attend the sesslon.
The Concord councilmen
eat dinner together
before ttreir meeilngs start, a
matter which could and occa_
sionally does subject them to
criticism. They invite one or
two newspapef reporters to
them as ry'guarantee that
the mcals are not'ln reality
star chamber proceedtngs.
Firmnesr Required
Sheehan has found ln two
years as'mayor that it takes
a good deal of firmness-a
quality no one has ever ac-
cused him of lacking-to keep
public business in the open.
"We've got
a lot of people
who holler democracy," ihe
mayor said. "But when the
chips are down, in cases af-
fecting them, many of therp
forget, all about it."
In the county seat of Mar-
tinez, the Board o! Super-
visors used to do
all of its work behind closed
doors until about a year ago
when lts dominant member,.
William J. Buchanan of
burg, died. Mr. Buchanan had
been on the board for 46 years
and was ik chairman for 30
' Interestingly
enough, it.was
hls son, Willlam G. Buchanan,
who opened up a good
deal of
board's work to public
scrutiny. The youngei
chanan succeeded his fathgr
as supervisor
"Dsd was a wonderful man
and- a wonderful supervisor,,,
Buchanan sald.
0o have some old-fasir-
loned ideas about caucuses.
"When I got
on the board
there was a hablt of
Eoing to
the back room in the middle
of meetings to hash g.roblems
out. I siid if I were a taxpay-
er siiiing in the meettng room
I'd be against that."
The board's members ea.t
lunch together at Nick,s in
Martinez between their moln-
and afternoon meetings,
but Buchanan claims that
Uttle business is discussed
over the lunch table_
The contrast between the
old way and the new is so
that, lt is a temptation
to overlook the faci that some
matters are setHed in
closed meetings.
Our Business'
The preliminary
hearings are closed to the
public, for example, alihough
representatives of the Contra
Costa Taxpayers Associatign
are permitted to attend.
"Certain policies
.that come
up-for lnstance, soclal serv-
ice matterslare discussed ln
H. L. Cummings of
Ctockett, chairman of the
board, said. "If the policies
are adopted, they come. out
in public.
We're the directors
of a t350,000,000 corporation.
Certainly we have a right to
discuss policy
among our-
selves;. that's our business.
"But we don't discuss things
among ourselves the way we
used to. W9
agreed among
ourselves that if a matter wai
of general public
interest we
would discuss lt out ln the
May 29. 1952 -
Part 5
Star Chamber Session
in Oakland
Callfornla eovern-
I ment. Code's sectlon on
publlc records reads:
reeords and
other matters ln the of0ce
of any of0cer. are at all
tlmes, during offlce hours,
open to lnspection of any
citizen ol thls State."
Knowing thls, a Chmn-
lele reporter appeared at
the offlce ot the Oakland
Houslng Authority, &n
agency set up under State
law, and asked to see the
mlnrtes. The Authorlty,s
mlnutes teU what buslness
ls ttansacted by lts trve-
member board at lts publtc
"Oh, I Couldn't glve them to
e clerk replied when the
reporter made his request
"You'll have to ask Mr. Hor-
Edmund Horwlnskl, execu.
ttve director of the authority,
was attendlng a star chamber
meetlng of the board, how-
ever, and could not be dis.
Ttre reporter eame another
day. Horwinskl was out.
He came a th,ird tlme. Hor-
he would dlscuss
the request wlth
Trlpp, the authority's chalr-
The tollorlng day llorwtn-
rkl reported that Trtpp ratd
the subject would be consld-
ered by the entlre board at lts
next monthly rneeilng.
called agaln
rlter the meeiing..
"The board decided that tt
you will submlt a request trom
your paper
tn writing lt wlll
c_onslder your
Horwlnskl sald.
Thc reporter asked ll en
attorney had been present
whe:t trhe boald't rulldg vet
"Yes, the authorlty,r attor-
J. Kllmaritn)
was there," Eorwlnskt replled.
The reporter asked ll the
attorney had advlsed the
bgard that refusal to present
the mlnutes was a vlolitton of
the law. Horwlnskl said the
subject had not come up.
The mlnutes are silll locked
A Chronlcle reporter ap-
ln the authorlt!,s
board room st 935 Union
street ln Oakland when the
board met to consider the
late ol a, ${,000,000 low-rent
houstng project ln Easi Oak-
Officirl Action
"Thl! ls e closed meethg,,,
Trlpp told the reporter.
"Wc rlade e genfleman,s
agreement at our last meeilng
not to have eny more closed
meetlngs on pollcy
. ." Jud Mlnzer, one of the
members, lnterJected. (Mtn-
zer's term expired. April 29.
hq has been replaced by
the OaEland City Council, thi
agency whlch appolnts the
authorlty's board members).
"Let's not go lnto that,',
Trlpp rnapped.
The reporter pointed
that the law requlred that U
any oltlclpl acilon were taken
you-!9 have ro be done pub:
licly. The Statc permtLr
lng euthorlUer to takc cer-
taln trstimony ln prlvate,
tt grants
no exemptlons
the geleral
law requlring
normal buslness be doire tn
"We don't get pald
for thls,,,
Walter H. Fleberling, vlce
chalrman, said.
ute our tlme, so we csn do
what we want."
M:s. Ruse Sickaloose, also a
merhber, sald: "It you
on staylng, we can always end
the meeting."
The board, ln fact, linally
left lts board room and
marched upstairs to Horwin-
ski'S office.
the board left the room,
The Chronicle's reporter asked
Fleberllng why he thought the
secret meettng was
"We are dlscusslng'a letter
from the dlrector ol the Hous-
lng Authority,', Fleberllng re-
was reterrlng to I let-
ter.Jrom J. G. Melville, head
of the San Franctsco
office of
the Public Houstng Authortty.
The letter advised the boaid
that ln votlng to abandon the
East Oekland project
lt was
violating a contract under
had already accepted
E275,000 ln Federal inoney. lt
it dropped the project,
Federal Gorernment
Its money back).
"Is the letter a puolic
ord?" the reporter asked,.
"Yes," Fieberling said.
"I'd llke to see tt rhen," the
reporter sald.
"Well, you
can't," Fieberllng
Tripp sald t'he proceedings
of the board were of no legili-
mete concern to anybody not
lrom Oakland.
The reporter reminded
Trlpp that, the board \,.a5
deallng wlth Fedorel funds.
"That doesn't matter,,,
Trlpp answered. ',The Federal
m6ney was only loaned to
Not all of the board's mem-
bers appeared to be cordia!
when they were questloned.
The reporter
noticed that
fist was shaking
a few lnches from hls facel
Tripp appeared to be even
less receptlve than Fieberllng.
There was. however, no way
of telllng Ior sure because
two ol Tripp's colleagues on
the board held thelr ehalrmau
by the arms end gen0i
nlm away,
There b less excltement.
brrt the Oaklsnd
ls by nb
meanr the only exampie
secrecy ln local goveramurts
lu Alameda county.
Harry Bartell, chatrman ol
the Alaneds County Board ot
sald he belteved
that rcme dlscusslons
be beld tn the open anO somi
ln prlvate.
He s&id he lelt the
lncludfurg The Chron_
icle, hed been unfelr tn the crltlclzlng t,lrc recrecy
by fUs bosrd.
.'T _bettgys
matterr of pollcy
should be
the. superylsors,
end we
wtll not dlscusa then ti: itrl
opcn," BgrteU
nevcr get publlc
express_ themaelver
ln publlc
on controverrlel natteri.',
boerd gtver,the peoplc
of Alamede couaty
end consclenilous goyern-
Eent," Bartell edded.
Kent D. Pursel, the newest
of the Boerd of
said lfc belleved hls
campelgn for getttng
board to do lts buslneEs more
openly was produclng
"Yy taes k thls. Frou prae-
tlcal servlce on the Berkeley
City Councl I know. ltt bet:
t9 h_ave everythtng po!-
sible ln the open,,thtrsct
out luyvay.',
Pursel reld be billeved thet
oaly chargcr agalnsi lndlvldu-
als, eppolntmcnts to eommls-
slons.and boards and the pre-
llmlnary stager ot real estate
transEctlons should be dls-
cussed lo prtvate.
'fhe actlvlttes ol Oaklantt's
Clty Councll are more open
now then tttey were ln the
past, and again the name ol
Bl Michoel Hanis
a neweomer comes up. Dr.
Grover Mecleod, who has
been on the Councll less than
I year, succeeded tn havlng
the agendas of Councll meet-
tngs prlnted ln advance so the
would not be caugbt by
rurprlse wben otllclal actlon
tta! takeD.
The commlttee meetlngr ol
the OEkland councll are open
and arc treely reported- ln
the preas. And reporters at-
tend and wrltp
wbat oc-
curs ln the brlef "study meet-
lngs" the counctl niembers
hold before thelr formal !cs-
slons st8rt.
One consptcuous exceptlon to
thlr policy,
tpwever ls that
depertmental budget heartngs
are conductd recrctly.
Ia Berkeley, thc Ctty Coun-
cU'c ceucuseE before the regu-
lar meetlggs rtart are ctosed
to ell outsldcrs.
':fhey 8re meetlngs lor ln-
formatlon," Mayor Lsur8nce I.
Cross satd.
"\[e might count
Doses on the matter of an
appolntment, but no vote
taken ln the caucus ls blndlng
legally or morelly-.
Cltlzens have.a r.ght to ei-
Pect w to have oIre1
wlren they approech u!."
The Mayor
he bellevqd,
however, that somc
ments werc decloe d ln tn-
formal meetlngs tn local clubs
by council members befdre
they came to thc crucur. The
Mayor satd thEt as the sole
Democrat among clBht !te-
on the nonpartlsan
counell he ls not lnvlted to
these rump meetlngs.
Edwrrd A. Marttn, vlce-
Mayor ol Berkeley, denled
that he and rny ot\er Coun-
cllmen had ever met to de-
clde appolntments. Martln
sald he did not regprd the
councll's caucuses as purely
Lrlormatlonal, however.
"A tew yqars
cent of our buslncss was done
ln closed sesstons and 20 per
cent ln publlc,"
Martln s8ld.
"Now lt's the other vty."
In San Leandro, both thc
councll meetlngr and the
"ltudy. meetlngs,, whlch ttrc
councll holds twlce a month
are publlc,
and every void
spoken at tfiem ls trahscrlbcd
by e tape recorder. The taper
are publle reeords-and unllke
the publlc
records ol the Oak-
land llousing Authorlty tbey
are evatlable to tbe publlc.
can't tell
what the reasons
lor I
actlon, there yo.l
en unfortunate sltuailon and
Posslbly trouble,"
Clure, Clty Manager oi San
Leandro, sald.
the reasons ln Ben Gendro,,,
May 30. 1952 - Part 6 Bt Michael Harris
AllE REAInN somcdmes
Lf d".o
ln detense of
pubtrc busilness bd':
hlDd-dd doots LB tJrat lt
asY{ts t&e trrpayers
noEcy on rcel-estste
Beceulc thc tacts are
olten dtfrcult to obtaln' lt
ls sometlrnes difhcult to
anlrver ttrls ergument
It tas not unill recentlY,
for tnstance, tJrat there vas
publlc lnformation
ebout two reel-estate deals
ln Marln county.
ln one' Dase the Marin
Cornty Bcrd ol Supervisors
an oPtlon to buY two
property tor e total
i,f Ss,mo.
Tbe land, at Fourth
ctreet and Grand avenue in
San Reteel, was to be
chased trm Slalter Gastrg, a
lonner member of the board,
as the slte tq t ucw countY
hcsltb ceuter.
Bctorc ttrc Purchasc
complctcd tltcto*d Pald
uppieiscrs $f50 to dctetminc
tbe vrluc of thc PtoPGrtY.
eeeninf Vdrc
Thc Upnfscr$
tqPtt, sub'
nittGd a februrr$ 89, srld
puccl of thc
rath lfg.Gf0
rnd the tdter
totrl ot llLss?.
ltc nftt la^t nd nadc
oublie. Nq dd ttr*'bnnl en-
tbrt lt had ltttivtd
the rcpt-or cvca that it
hrd adcredftnrda
In trct. tbc bmrd tnshucttd
Connty Cfcrt Gcorea S. Joes
to post r pu.btlc notlcc that
the. borrl htcndGd to
chan the tro
ta the
$S,C(D OClrt. oae
and the otbcr tor $15,-
Joncs told r Srn Releel
Indcpcndent-Jourall rporter
tttat be understood thet this
vu ebout $?0fi)
more than
ttre epprehed velue. On the
lollowlng dey, March 13, tJre
Indepcndent-Joumal reported
ttrls dlserepency. It alro re-
portad tbat the sppnlssl was
riln mksing frsn tihe county
fle! two weels etter lt
res submltted to.the board-
Ite appralsal tuped up ln
tb flles a few hours alter ttrc
c8,rnc out wlth thls lD-
Supervisor Willlam D.
sclmsn of San Anselmo, cheb-
man of the Board of Super-
price," Fusselman explalned.
Now, ol course, the secret ls
out. The option still holds,
and there has been publlc
discussion of the-
site. The board has still not
decided whether to buy the
land cr let the optlon lapse.
The matter ol secrecy came
up also ln a
meetlng the
Board of Supdrvisors held witlt
the County Grand Jury to dis-
cuss a surYey of how Marln
county's government could be
made more efflcient.
The publlc was barred.
In tbls cate tr'usselman at-
tempted to have the discus-
sion conducted openly. He was
voted down,
It ls dtfflcult to determlne
wbat result the recrecy
brought ln thfs hstencc ex-
cspt cqlfudon.
For oncc the' neetlng was
over, Fusselman gave his ac-
count of wbat happened to
the press. And a{ter Fussel-
marl spoke, so. did others who
attrended the meeting. Natu-
rallg the accounts varled, aad
It is stlll dlfflcult
get a
coberent report on *hat went
on in the meeting.
No Caucurer
By contrast, the San An-
selrno Clty Council manages
to get along wlthout any
"I haYe tound that il you do
not caueus, if each man gives
hls views openly, there ls no
room for arguments about the
City Qouncll's motlves," Mayor
Carmel Booth, ot San An-
selmo, commented,
Except for the signing of
which is done
openly in the City Clerk's'of-
flce at a scheduled time
ol the councll's business ls
conducted ln its high - ceil-
After a Caucus is Over,
After the Smoke Has Cleared...
vlsors' Ilealth and Wellare
Committee, sald the fnde-
pendent-Journal had mlsun-
To substantiate hls conten-
tlon, Fusselman showed a
Chronlcle reporter a copy,of a
letter he wrote to the Marin
Board ot Supervlsori,
In the letter Fusselman sug-
gested that the boird go
ahead witJr lts plan to buy the
targer parcel to/ the
ligure It would be too ex-
end too troublesome
going lnto condemnetion pro-
ceedlngs tor ttre $380 differ-
ence.between tJte agreed price
and the appralsed value.
He wrot, however, that lt
mieht be adviseblb to start
condemnatlon actlon to get
parcel 8t I figure
below the $f5,000
Supervlsors had sgtcod to pay.
Ilrsselman sald,
erpldncil everlrthlng. It
hc sald,'that the Su-
had uot been pro-
throw ttre taxpay-
crs' moncy abort loosely.
Thc lctter vas dated March
deys rfter ttre Inde-
Itndent-Journal's artlcle hid
Tbe mettcr was not settled
util the
28 meetlng ot
thc Bnrd ot Supcrvlsors. At
Set mccttng ttre Supervlsors
bought tlre
hnd tc
t&,(n0. And they
took out an opuon to buy the
$lgul Dercel
Hidacc ?urchetc
ltc othcr real estate trms-
actirra lnvolved tJre site of the
Marin County fhlr
Grornds- lte county hes ec-
cumulated about $lr(),Ofil trom
Its sbsre ol the State's pari-
mutuel reyeuues toward start-
lug a couaty falr.
the board declded to
opHon on property
ueer Llt-
tlcman's Store on Hlghway 101
about a mlle east oI Corte
Madera. The board had e real
es[ate agent get
the option in
t'Ire name ol SuDervlsor James
V. Kehoe of Polnt Reyes Sta-
tion, Fusselmen said.
Asked why the board had
not negotiated openly, Fussel-
man replied:
. "We
were trylng to save
money for the taxpayers."
The board sometimes makes
land purchases through agents
to keep "private lnterests from
stepping ln and ralslng the
inged, gabled meetlng room,
The council, Uke those ol
other clties, used to meet in
caucus, Mrs. Booth said. After
her election to the councll
in 1948, Mrs. Booth made a
practice of arrlvbg at the
Clty Hall at the same hr.lur
as the other Council members.
Whlle they held thelr caucus
meetlng ln a ba,pk room, she
sat ln the ffont r-oom, alone at
the couhctl table.
ttrey_ came out. I
made them dlscuss each mo-
tion ln
public so I would'
know what I was voting on,"
Mrs. Booth said.
T\ilo years later two new
members were elected to the
five-man council. TheY voted
lor Mrs. Booth to be the. new
Mayor, and the other two
voted against her. She cast
the deciding vote in her own
"In the two
years I have
been Mayor we have had ng
caucuses," Mrs. Booth said.
"You can tell that by attend-
ing our' meetings. If you find
a councll where thcre are five
a,yes or flve noes on any vote,
I don't want any.part ol lt."
The Right to Know
Jack Craemer, managing
editor of the San Rafael Inde-
- Journal and a co-
chalrman of the California
Newspaper Publishers Associa-
tlon's Fteedom of Information
Committee, explalned why his
newsaper had adopted a mili-
tant stand agalnst, secrecy in
have the right
to know," Craemer said. "The
has only a story to Iose
when lnformation ls withheld
and' we have more stories
.every day than we can find
toom for.
"But the people
have their
lreedom to lose."
June 1. 1952 - Part 7
Bl Michael Hanis
City's Fathers Keep Doors Open
I-r brought with hlm what
some of his colleagues re-
gard as pretty strange ldeas
when he was elected to the
Petaluma City Councll.
This is one o! Councll-
man Shoemaker's ldeas:
"I was elected to do a
lor the
people, and the
ple will not kuow what I
going to do lt I do
my lhinking behind closed
Here is anobher:
"If I haven't the courage to
speak oub openly, I have ab-
s6tutely no rtght to be ln
llc ottlce."
Thts attltude has made
Shoemaker somethlng ol a
nuisance on a counctl where
the traditlon has been to do
work in privata But he hPs
won some support for hls
stand, and 'tbere
have been
signs of more openness in lo-
government ln Petaluma.
There ls the Chamber of
Comnerce metter, for one
tlring. It has been the cus-
tom in Petaluma for thc clty
to pay part ol the chamber's
expensell. It was also the cus-
tom in the past for the cham-
ber's leaders to stt down af a
closed meeting with the coun-
cll each year to discuss their
ilnanclal needs and the serv-
lces they were prepared
perform for the ctiy.
Once thc amount ot ald was
rettled ln caucus, the appro-
prlailon was handled wlth r
formal motlon and a vote-
a procedure consumlng a few
seconds-at one of tihe coun-
cil's open meetlngs.
Last leU the chamber'E rep-
rescatetlvea made thelr usuel
appeErance et e caucu. But
Sbocnrler flarlly won hls
Thc rcprerntadves
rcre told tDGt uould bave to
rtlta thclr necdr ln publlc.
Srtdffiidt laur
But th6u .tbcrc vre .thc
u.ttcs ol thc Bootcr mbdl-
clt of torr. Tlrtl
?al dleurrd, tn crueur ten
notbr rgo. Ald though
cltcu rtrst brppcacd E fn
drputc, lt lr gcnerelly
t'Drt ln lrtormll rgrcemcnt
rbot drrlnegG wa^r rcectrcd et
trbc crucrrs thougb aDlnrcntly
It 9!l DC?C! commlttcd to
Anybor, ttrc subdlvldon's
dntrrasc dtdn't wort out to
rctl durtng tDc rtntr flmds,
rnd tlrerc heve been eccuss-
Uoru and counter-accusatlons
"Wc are lrequdntly
trontcd vlth groups,
zations and lndlviduels who
went to ascertaln tbe emount
of co-opcretlon they ean ex-
pect wben tbey make their
tormsl appearsnces betore the
councll," Sroemater seld..
nrspccts collu-
d@ tll orce trIc thrt And
rhy rhatld
yG go qrt god
crltlcle by EGGttng bG-
DlDd clord doorr? We can
tpt caouSh crfudo rlthout
lottas tor rncc.'
llorqshc Dhrlcil
Of thc !v!o Counctlnta,
&rrnefar lr rt onc cxtrcmc.
P. Doughr! Schwobedl lr rt
thc otDcr.
't brUGvG ln tbc caryn!,'
&hroDedr et4
tbrags thrt cant bc donc eny
other uny."
Hc ucotoacd onc current
trutc Dctorc t&c eouncll, thc
proposel thai the clty loin
moaqulto ebahment dtstrlct.
Proponcnts ot Joinlns
eay tt
will Besn better mosquito
cmtrol; epponents say lt wtll
cost an eddlflonsl 7 ceerts on
tbe trx ratc.
tr r
pcrtect eremple
ol roethlng to bc handled
ht c8ucu!,' Bcbwobada ssld-
'"W'hen methlng controver-
del cmcr
thc councll
ahoukl tsll tt over man to
'Bl8[t uov I dont loos
whcthdr wc should
dlrtrlch I Inow thet ronc
Lvor lt rnd smc op-
lt. It wG mcct ln ttrc
opcn, the coutrcll mlght hevc
r lpllt votr. It we dlscuas lt
bchlnd clolaf d@rs, rc'll
comc mucb closcr to au un-
In spite ot Sehwobed&'s op-
the council has had
sevcrel open meetlngs to dis-
cuss'the subJect'.
Shoemaker has. somi allies
h btl flght lor more olrcn
Vlneent Schoe-
alngb, who was elected to thc
cquntll last
ls on hlt
dalc. '
'llhc cauctS should only be
I mesns of
trton, tnd tt lbiruld bc open to
tllre publlc,'
Scboentngh sald.
Mirconducl Herdngr
Both he and Shoemaker
ogreed, ho\pever, that the
councll slrould hold closed
meettngs wheil charges are
brought egalnst clty employ-
ecc tor mlsconduct
an aver-
agc of perhaps (rne
meetlng a year, they esfl-
Edward Frank,'the new clty
manager, said he advised the
councll even'before he came
to work ln Petaluma that lt
was headlng for trouble when
it dtd so much business be-
hlnd closed doors,
Mayor felend Myers sald he
was Lmpreased by the advice.
"At one tlme we were hold-
lng back lnfqrmatlon,' the
Mayor rald. "The
practlee hes
becn chaaglng. I was shown
lte Petcluma Argus-Courler
bas becn supporflng Shoe-
maEer's atend.
Bellcvers ln open govern-
ment !r thnte Rosa, 16 mfles
to the north; fel!conslderably
Clty Councit does a lot
of work ln what lts members
call caucu-ses. But they cer-
talnly rre sot Carfruses es the
word ts
used. The
tlsres and plsces of the cau-
cuscs ere snnounced
vance, and the pullic ls ln-
Furthermore, ihey are tutty
reported in the press. The
Santa Rosa Press: Dqmccrat
.protests vigorously when its
edltors thlnk any
ness ls belng done ln private.
Some Councllmen thought,
tor,trstaacr, that lt htght ba
e good
ldee lt the locatlons ot
come parldng
lots planned tn
the clty's olf-street parHng
were not dlsclosed.
The paper
dlsqreed and
the locetlons.
It developed that the loca-
tlon of every loi; except one
met wlth public approval.
And, after some pubUc
cussion, the Counellmen dl.s-
covered that tire complalnts
would end if a new location
one block away was selected
for that one. So the councll
agreed on ihe alternate site.
lnformal Meetingr
Robert L. Blshop, a local au-
tomobile dealer who
retired from the counsil after
serving for six years,
said he
believed the Senta Rosa coun-
ell could operate best tri rela-
tively intormal
meet{ngs. Its
membcrs llEe each ot&er and
to vork wlthout pro-
raeea that he would bc
vlgofously oDpsed tl asy. et-
lorl wera Dade-to hold these
lDIlaBl meeilrgg beblnd
clo&c{ 6sors.
Fourteen mlles farther north,
at Healdsburg, the government
is conducted at open meetlngs.
critlclzed tor your
declslons," sald Lee lYitwell,
a lormer Councllman. ',But
what's wrong wlth crittclsm?
That'r part
of our.democracy.
Altrr all, you
can't please
June 2. 1952 - Part I Bt Michael Harris
A Hidden Button, Narrow Hall...
\J ol Eupcrvlsors holds lts
ncctlngs la prbXp.Its
Etttcei eho meet publtcly.
Itc Board of Educatlon
uDd to havc a tradltlon ol
doh8lt rork bchtndclosed
doora But that ended
acarly f,vc
years ago vhea
Dr. Ecrbcrt C. Cllsh be-
cr,mc Eupcdtrtandcot ol
8.|b.dr enal tnddd tDit
rll bo.rd mccttng bc opca.
fu eitlrr chlcl rd&lnEtEs-
ttrc otlhcr. Thmer A. Broolr'
bl r
tbrt tnt dcDlrt-
Emt opcrrtlag undcr hE dl-
sGGtloB do thclr rorl qcnly.
Irdc.d. thctt ts r trrdttlon
of opcnncc ln ctty go"em-
Etcnt tr 8u Fnncllco.
And yct. onc rttarDoon lrst
nmt&, tbe etmorphcrc was
amctbio3 lllc ProhlbtUon
A EDortcr cntcrctl r reccp-
Em roon ln thc Ctty Erll.
"Wbcrc'l thc mrctlng?" ttrc
lllportlr r*ed.
mcctlng tul I o'cloct,;
r-t"t bcblnd thc count&
eoclthr s.rlioa
't ual t&c cxecutlvc rcs-
&ra.o '
"l{oihlnl tsIl ilvr!.
Ttc repctcr lrhnuttctl
dL Bc ru told thcu to rvell
tbc corntcr rnd push
DHdco Dutta tt thc cnd-
r brEllt r[Dq
rnd th fclld dtr Ui I Dlr-
!o? csTldorofacd.
ttc rrnorhr rrltrcrt do'n
fDlr hellrrf tld oDGa.d tDt
lmth 6G to tb. rlght.
F! trr Do? ln tbc rmn
rhcn lhn lrrnclm.l Publlc
t4 ttr lcdrlonr. fh. clcd
hrd rtertat .hatlt
b.!qc I
a and tt, lrdeA
rul t.
ltro th. cenltttolr.
sent tnto thc regular meeilng
rq)m. Therc. bctween O:0b
m. and 5:07, they passed
Thc routlnc et thc reguler
lllt thls:
One," Chelrutan
Ollver Rousseau announced.
"llotl@," onc of thc com-
'8cco[il,' tltd enot&cr.
tlvc, lyc," Roulsc8u
(A pculc.i -ltroiim
Ncrt eemc:
'Acrutionr Threc to Elr,
lncludvc ...'
And tDcu:
'8&lutt@! tilfbt to Nlne-
ttatr . .."
tl to 2t, ll
tncndcd. .,."
And. nnillr:
th carrlca.'
Since this meeting the Pub-
llc Utilities Commlssion
changed some ol lts
Rousseau has ordered that
anyone who waats to may go
past the locked door and at-
tend the conferences at whlch
ttre commlssloners study tJretr
(The press
has ettende<t
tlrem tor some tlme. On one
occssilon the comnlssloncrr
totd nsy Leavltt, Tbe Chro-
tcle's Clty .Ilall reporter, that
he would have to lbsve, He
announced thrt he would get
8 court uder to rtay ll BGoGs-
!8ry, end tJre comnlgsloncrc
Rcrolutibar fcd
Another change now tn el-
fect ir ttrat at tlre formal
meeting wblch tollows the
csucus each resolutlon up for
approval ls rearl end ls voted
on separately.
"I had no ldea these abuses
exlsted," Rousseau told e re-
porter a few dsys after ttre
"I'll correct them
"You know, I'B new ln thls
Job. I've been on the comhir-
slon only slnce Jsnusry 15.
I knew the commlsclon hrd e
custom of worllng ln conter-
ence. I sew reporters et the
confercnce!, and I never
reel&ei ttrc general publle
couldn't, turn up. I
thought no ore wEr tntcrertpd
tn attendlng them.,,
How ebout tJre luncheons
tbe commlsslon 8omctlrqcs
held rt thc F'amlly Club? tJrc
rcportr rsIcd.
'"We heven't mct rt. tbc
Famlly Club dnce I
rolned tbG
boarrl," Roussceu tald.
aet oncc tt thc Olymptc ctub.
"Wc dldn't tlll much bud-
ness tlret tJme, but lt,!
I don't tbtnt we
lhoutd brvc rny morc lunchcr
rt prlystc
Thc Clvll Scrvlcc Connlr-
slon ls faced wlth the problem
of how much of lts worE can
be done openly. The
commlsslonerr bclteve, for one
thlng, that lt would be cruel
8nd unJust to dlscuss prlson
records and other personal
tells of clty employees' llves ln
But, !r tddl0on, the cora-
mlsloners ronettme talts
me.tten ln tJre
contircnces they Uola brlorc
tbctr publlc.riucflfge
Dr. EUlr D.
thG cltyl
dlrector of heeltJr, war lnvlted
to attend a conlercnce wlth
the boerd mGlnbcrE bctuo a
rccent mectlng. Dr.sox sdYo-
catcd ratotng thc stsndafds
for examlnattons rhlch ere to
be held .to tUf sornc supr-
vlsory nurslng pcltlons
8an Franclsco llospltal
matter on whlch the boerd ls
spilt at
A reporter was present
representatlves of ttle nurses
who would be tncllglble to
compete tor thq posts
lf the
htgher standarils-were adopted
dtd not even know Dr. Sox was
with the commlsstoners.
representatlves were ln the
next room waltlng for the
mcetlng to start.
Acourtict Probtom
"I lnvltcd Dr. 8or beciuse
I wanted tdm to meet tbb
com-mlsslmerr end have them
meet hlm," WUUgm L. Hen-
derson, secretary end person-
nel dlrector of the commls-
alon, satd,'"Our releUonl wltJt
thc Health Departurent ln thc
werc tcr lrom teusl8c-
tory, end I sE very rnrlou
and the
tc very
anxlous to bttng ebort r bct-
tcr_ underutendlng."
ot thc
aectlngsol thc commlslon lr
tbrt rcout{cr ln the mcct-
lng room atr
Door. Thc ru-
dlcnec hgt dllflculty lollow-
lag.ttrc dlacusrlon. A_ repottcr
dtttng ln the mlddl'c dt ttrc
ilnt ror coutd not hcrr whrt
Ilenderson was saylrlg when
he wss asked for hl,s recom-
mendefloru ln cases betore
ttre conrmlsslon.
The city's 'Ilttle Hoover
the Munlcbql
Clovernment Survey. Adyl$ry
Commlttee-has held no
lic qeettnga
tn the yeer aird a
hell ol lts cxfstence, N. Loyall
Mclaren, lts cbalrdran. saltl.
ThIe pollcy mry chengc.
"It the law sqyo our meet-
lnge slrould be puElc, we wllt
mal! them public,' Mcllrelr
tald. "No one cyer -aslcrl to
attend our mee{nga ln thc
end.the tssuc dld not
come up. Wben vs toof ol-
llce, uo one told tt we should
r.neet tn publlc."
On Aprll 21 lf,cl8rcn lrked
Clty Attorney Dlon Holm lor
a rullng on what t$e law re-
qulred. Holm sald he hes been
pretty busy lately but he
hopes to be able to glve the
rullng lalrly soon.
The. Pollce Commisslon has
three klnds of meetlngs.
The llrst two coneern tlls-
clpllnary metters. When an
ofllcer ls being trled, tha
heerlngs are conducted llEe
court trlals. They are open,
end the
pnnn charged le al-
lowed to have aD attorney
represent, htur.
The commlsslon workt ln
meetlng as I grsnd
declde whcthcr chergpe should
bc flted. And, when they act
ln thlg crpaclty, thc commls-
stoncrc-llk. grsnd
do tbetr worL bchtnd clbsed
doorr so thst the rcputatlons
ol Innocent men wlll not bc
Ttr! thlrd llnd ot bccurg
conernE ddprtment pollcy
mett rs. ADd lt tr at thprc
mcetlngs, lcga\y opcn to tltc
tbat ths gurrdlrnr
Itw enlorcenent blr thc door
most tlrri[y.
June 3. 1952 - Paft 9
By Michael Harris
The rrporter luterrupted at
thls polnt.
'Look," the reporter began.
leel so strongly about
this, why don't you
cut lt
"As f
lt's easy,,, the
offlclal repiied, "and some-
tlmes the next council meet-
lng reems too far away for us
to walt to take acl,lon. So
once ln a whlle I call up the
Mayor and tell hlm sorneihing
has come up that's as hot ai
a two-blt plstol.
a qulckle
at 5 o'elock?, f a"sk.
Il he says all rlght, I call up
the rest of the counb[ and se'e
lf they can make lt.,,
tn other words, tr
r- heblt ttrat ls hard to briak,
the olllclal sald.
The councll's regular, pub-
lie meetlngs are falrly cut-
and-drled affairs.
"They have a study meetlng
before," the official
The study meeilngs save
time and increase efficiency,
the official coniinued.
In faci, he commenLed, he
believed his community had
few complainLs as far as ef-
f lciency was concerned. He
was proud ol his police de-
partment, he said, and he be-
lieved the men on the force
were honest. He sali the other
departmenls were good, too.
"We take short cuts to speed
things aloi; g," the of f icial
noted. "You know of co\rrse
there 1s inefficiency ln ali
types of government, and lt's
a nrlisance. Yet, a man who
cuts red tape
how far can
he go belore he ls assumlng
power3 that aren't hls?
"It a man trled to run
llc buslness like a private
company, all your democracy
would be gone. He'd wbrd up
"I don't know how far you
can go tn the directior ot
strearpllnlng public affairs
without taking away the dem-
ocratlc herltage ol local gov-
Wel1, other citles manage to
get along without such fla-
violations, the reporier
"I'm telling you a tot ol
them do it, regardless of what
they tell you,"
the manager
answered. "I know. I geb
around and hobnob with the
others 1n my business. We talk
"It's not pretty,
is tt?
"Stll], that's how 1t ls. If
want open government,
you have to be vigilant. Il
not vigilant, your gov-
ernment will be done behind
closed doors."
The offlclal stood up, tnd
he and the reporter
over to the window. They
looked. at part
of the down-
town area of the pleasant
Iittle suburban community.
The reporter took hls leave.
"Thanks for dropplng 1n,"
the official said. "I hope ycu
do some good wlth your arti-
cles. And I can't recall when
I have enJoyed a conversatlon
60 much wlth a complete
The Average
Citizen Wouldn't
Have a Chance in Star Chamber
+ suPpcxsE lee,llY we
L coua m8kc out a casc
tor oursclvct,"
the clty oi0-
ctjBl sstd- '.llor8$7,9e
ask about conduct-
try ctty buslness wlthout
thi Inowtedge
or consent
o, the Publle?
Belleve me'
I Inow lust
The oficial wes belng ln-
tcrvlcwed tn hl,s ofrce. He
tr tJre chlet tull-tlme ex-
GcutlYe ol e lalrly small
clty slthtn eommutlng
frnge of Ssn Franclsco-
telrly smeU but no mere
lpot on the hlghway.
It ts e moderately wealtby
cmmunlty, ccrteln$ ebovo
tbc Bay Are Bverage ln indl-
Ylrlusl tn@mes,
Elddlc clqr*. lt contelnr many
plcrsrnt bomes.
It ctty rnd tJrc ofltclel
illl not be nemed ln tblr ar.
thlc. Thc offlalel rupPllcd thc
tectr end thc dctells to a re-
prercnt e cesc
rtudy ol thc clty. Hls name
b onlttcd bcerurc of thc legel
rnd noral
prlnclplc that no
mrn rhould be obltged to
tcltlfy egatnst blmrell.
A lcr mtnor detgils hevc
been altered so the ctty and
the ma,n wlll not bc ldentified.
Thc quotetlons, hogever, ere
"I'U bc pertectly frank," thc
olltclal ratd aftcr thc pre-
llmlnarles were out ol thc
ray. 'Tele called deenr of
mceUnSs ol thc Clty Councll
oa 20 mlnutes' notlce.
'It the counclll actlm was
o soethlng tlrc average Joe
r8trted to protrrt,
he wouldnt
htve r chauct."
Nor, tiblr brhgr up a lcgal
Scbool bardt 8nd
Erny dher
bodies can do
kind of business at spcial
meetlngs. City counclls
allowed to attend to emer-
gency matters only. It a coun-
cil has more work than lt
can sttend to ln a regullr
meettng, lt must legally ad-
Journ to a detlnlte time and
duly entered ln tbe
'lilIhat we ectually do ls
adjourn without settlng the
date, and then we correct the
mlnutes l8ter," tJre olllelal lx-
"That may not bs
legal, but we haven't been
caught. And if you thluk you
can catch rx by lmkhg at the
mlnutes, go ahead and try.
We keep the prettiest mtrutes
you eYer saw."
The trduble ls, the man&ger
sald, thlngs have gotten
'I started doing lt beeause
It was so easy," he said.
tigured so long as I was hon-
est and aboveboard I wouldn't
be hurtlng anythlng and f
would be expedltlng things.
I'm honest. I can sleep nlghk.
'But when you
take I
Ilke thls, sooner or later you
run the rlsk of mlsusing lt
end dolng someono actual
harm. I'm glad
Tbe Ghron-
icle lr ehecldng tnto thl&
It'r wldesprcad, lt't dauger-
eu!,8Dd lt shuuld be stopped."
The official leaned back ln
hls ehair for a momint, lit a
clgarette and then continued.
'Yhat we have been dolng
ls the same thtng as the guy
working at the bank who took
$2 out of t&e cash drawer,
blew lt on tihe races and put
It back on payday.
lt back, see. IIe l,s
o! hlmself. And he was
e study meeilng?
sc honest that tJme. that he's
Oh, they Just
try and get to-
golng. to be ev+n msre honest gether dnO tron but thelr dil-
next tlme and take
920. Theu ierenceg so they csn
present &
more.' Ot coursSl you
know unlted front at the
where that leadi,"
June 4. 1952 - Part t0
rf THAT can be to
W' make sure that put
llc business ,s done in
Ir70 0ne argues seriously
that lars alone can IreP
menbrs of cotmcils and
boards fron meetingi ln
bact rooms and reaehlng
declslons la
But lt may be ergued that
lers can reduce ttris prac-
tlec and possibly eltminate
soEe abuses.
Rlchard Graves, executive
dlrector of the League of Cali-
fotala Cities. sald he believes
lars could be re-
qulre publtc bodies to
edeguate public notice before
they could meet. This would
eltmlnate the practice of hold-
tng "public meetings" at un-
By Michael Harris
Making Public Business Public
rnnounced times atid in
At present, a meetlhg is con-
sldered iegally "public" in al-
most all of the communities
of the Bay Area so long as
no one is actually barred.
'There is no requirement under
State law or under most
cherters that.the public be
edvtsed of s$ecial meetings in
'Itl the
game of the loop-
hole," Grevet commented.
'What can
you say excebt that
wben loopholes are found in
the law they should be
'Thc lntent ol the law ls
clcar. It. ls that public bust-
ncsl Dc doue ln the open."
Unrnnounccd Meetingr
Several examples of unan-
nounced meetings were listed
cerller llr t]ris serles.
In Sen Mateo county, the
board of the Sequoie Unlon
High Schml District met in
the school building one night
alter the public had' gone
home and voted not to rehire
nine teachers. In Walnut
Creek, the Central Contra
Ccts Santtary District's board
met after anhouncing that no
meeting would take place, and
abolished the positton of dis-
triet manager.
The law forbids such meet-
ings in San Francisco. Unless
adequate notice is given,
board meeting is illegal and
any action taken at tt ir in-
Changes in city and county
charters and in the CaUfornia
Goiernment Code could out-
Iaw "sneak meetings" ln other
communitles as well, accord-
trag to Assistant Attorney Geu-
eral Ttreodore A. Westpha,l Jr.
Westphal is tn charge ol the
division of eivil law in the
California Department of
Justice's San Francisco offlce.
Frcquent Scssionr
One suggestion to end the
apparent need for calling spe-
cial meetings would be for
boards and councils to hold
their regular meetings more
frequently, Graves said. In
most communitles the City
Council meets only once or
twice a month
and some
city business cannot wait lor
two to four weeks before ac-
tion is taken.
The matter of the caucus
t!" lnformal get
- together
where board members talk
over their problems
appearing in public
is some-
thing else.
(} }j I
fn some cases caucus meet-
ings are held where board and
council members plan to take
some unpopular action or to
do something which ls clearly
unfair or unjust.
These cas,es are obviously ln
the miuority.
"Tbe real difficulty ls that
some membels of boards fig-
ure out for themSelves, very
conscientiously, that they
serve the public
best by not
Iettlxg the
Dubllc ln on
their deliberations,,, Irvtng G.
Breyer, legal adviser of the
San Franeisco Board ol Edu-
cetion, sald.
Law Changer
"They are trying to be hon-
est abciut it. Some of them
even think that they could
not function ln any other
Here, too, some changes ln
the law might help, Graves
"A clear statement that lt
ls sound public policy
to do
public tusiness in the open
should be in the laws describ-
ing boards' and councils' du-
ties," Graves urged.' "This
would remove the claims of
legitimacy from caucus gov-
ernment. I think such a state-
ment would be a wholesome
thing, and I believe it would
be effeclive.
caucus has,
however, a place in govern-
ment. It should be under-
At the outset that it
is not the proper place
sottle differences
ot opinion.
But, withilo limits, it cen be
Matterr Ior Caucur
Graves said he believed
three things should be dis-
cussed in caucus rireetings.
They Are:
First, matters involtlng un-
charges agains0 lndl-
viduals, where open discus-
sion would be unjusl.
Seeond, sotne real esiate
matters in their early stages,
though the actual purchase
shpuld be made
openly and only after public
Third, lnformation whtch
board members feel they
should' tell each other but
which it would.not be tn the
public lnterest. to discuss
Thls set of exceptions
the third of them
leaves room
abuses un-
less the press sits in on all
caucus meetings, Graves con-
"I believe a council or a
board lets itself in for se^ious
difficulties lf it ever meets
completely ln private,,,
said. "I knoW that some of
the people
I work for
League ol California Cities
the municipal gov-
ernments of California) dis-
agree with me, but that ts
what I believe."
Some officials go
Graves ln their recommehda-
"I hate closed meetings,"
Mayor Carmel Booth ol San
Anselmo said. "U people have
charges to make; let ilrem
bring them to the Districi At-
torney. If they want to bring
them to the Council, they
should make thern openly and
be prepared
to prove what
they say."
In San Leandro and Santa
Rosa the so-called caucuses
are open to the public.
Graves' suggestion also
brings up the problem
of spe-
cial privileges
for the press,
a subject which arose fre-
durlng The Chroni-
cle's study ol local govern-
ments. Legally, the has
no rights that any' citizen
does not possess.
Still, Graves said he believed
his position
might provd
to be
a workable compromise to the
of reducing secrecy ir:
Many of ficials who were
durlng The Chron-
icle's survey said they felt
that many boards ctiii not
have. the problenl
of keeping
away from their meet-
ings but getting
them to at-
The officials said they at
leasL were doing useful work.
Instead of being praised Yor
their interest, they added,
they were subject to criticism
by their lazy'fellow citizens
who were ietting their demo-
clatic tradition languish.
Yet, it would take a fairly
lively citizenry to keep up
with California's local gov-
erning agencies. John C. Bol-
lens and Stanley Scott, ln
their "Local Government th
Calif ornia," published this
by the University of Cali-
fornia Press, counted 4356
boards in the Slate
including 2156 school boards.
"The public has a respon-
sibility of course, but so do
the boards," Dr. Herbert C.
Clish, San Francisco's Super-
iniendbnt of Schools, com-
can repj the pub-
lic qLrite ef f ectively by doing
their real wolk behind closed
doors and making their meet-
lngs seem pointless.
. they do, Lhey are making a
mistake. They are alienating
the people
they are working
for. There is good
at the San Francisco Board of
Education's meetings, and I
always urge people
to a+,tend.',
Agenda Provided
For those rvho want it, the
superintendenb provides
agenda of what will be dls-
cussed at the board,s next
meeting. A typical agenda re-
ceived by The Chronicle be-
fore a recent board meeilng
contained more than 150
And then there is the at-
titude expressed by M. A.
Becker, superinlendent
of the
Sylvan Elementary
a three - school dis-
tricb about 15 miles trortheast
of Sacrafnento.
"The board takes care of the
districl all right,', Becker said.
have visitors at the meet-
ings sometimes,
but thev,re
mostly busybodies and tr.bu-
blemakers. "
wln a tl,tlufl,ayl.
Itta tLtl EtD oF tll
Caltfurnia's First Open Meeting Law
Tle serles prtttedfn thrs bookletledto tle adop-
tion oJ Calidomta'sSfirst Open Meethg law tn 1 I 53.
Wtllle the brtoJbdng's amendedlaw
prises 27 pages, tle proposeduqsiontn 7gE2 was
corttoined inJust hl o
gpeu:ritten pog e s, and. is re-
prlrtted herewlth- Tle preanbb, wrttten by Mtchael
Haflls tn 1952, [s sfillpresqtsedtntodog's law.
act to add chapter 9, compristng sections 54950
to 54957lnclusive, to Part 1, DMslon 2, Tltle 5, of
the Government Code relating to meettngs of legis-
laUve bodles of local agencies.)
Preamble. The public cornrnisstons, boards
and councils and the other public agencles in thts
State extst to ald tn the conduct of the people's
buslness. It ts the irrtent of the law that their
actions be taken openly and that thetr deliberations
be conducted openly.
The people of this State do not yield their
sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The
people, ln delegattng authority, do not give thetr
public servants the rtght to decide what is good for
the people to know and what ls not good forthem to
know. The people lnsist on remainlng tnformed so
that they may retatn control over the lnstruments
they have created.
The people of the State of CaMornia do
therefore enact as follows:
Sectlon 1. Chapter9, comprtsing Sections
54950 to 54957 inclusive, is added to Part 1, Divi-
slon 2, Tttle 5, of the Government Code, to read:
649fl). "Local agency' defined. As usecl ln
this chapter, "local agency'means a county, cit5r,
town, school district, munlcipal corporaflon, dis-
trict, political subdtvision, public corporation, or
any board, commtsston or agency thereof, or other
publtc agency of the State.
64951.'Iegislative body' defined. As used
in this chapter,
body'means the gov-
erning board, cormrlsslon, dlrectors or body of a
local agency, or any board or cornrnission thereof.
54952. Meetings to be public. All meetings
of the leglslative body of a local agency shall be open
and public, and all persons shall be permttted to
attend anymeettng of the leglslative body of a local
agency, except as otherwise provtded tn this chap-
64953. Regularmeetings. TIme and place.
The leglslative body of a local agency shall provtde,
by ordtnance, the time and place for holdtrg regular
meeUngs. Meetings of the legislative body shall be
held within the boundaries of the tefitory over
which the local agency exerclsesJurtsdiction. If at
any time any regular meeUng falls on a holtday,
such regular meettng shall be held on the next
busi:eess day. If, by reason of flre, fl ood, earthquake
or other emergency, it shall be unsafe to meet tn the
place deslgnated, the meetings may be held for the
duration of the emergency at such place as ls
designated by the presiding ofllcer of the legtslative
64954. AdJourned meettngs. The legisla-
tive body of a local agency may adJourn any regular
or adJourned meettng to a time and place speclfled
tn the order of adJournment. When so adJourned,
the adJourned meeting is a regular meeting for all
purposes. When an order of adJournment of a
regular or adJourned meeting fails to state the hour
at which the adJourned meeting is to be held, tt shall
be held at the hour specfied by ordi:eance for
regular meetings.
64955. Special meetings. A speclal meet-
ing may be ordered at any time by the presidtng
officer of the legislative body of a local agenry, or by
amaJorityofthe members ofthe legtslattve body, by
deltvering personally or by matl written notice to
each member of the legislattve body and to each
local newspaper of general
clrculation printed and
published urlthin the boundaries of the territory
over whlch the local agency exerctsesJurtsdiction.
Such notlce must be delivered personally
or by mail
at least twenty-four hours before the time of such
meeting as spectfied h the notice. The order shall
spectff the time and place of the spectal meeting
and the buslness to be transacted. No other
buslness shall be consldered at such meettngs by
the legislatlve body.
64956. Exceptions. A private meeting or
executive session shall not be held by the legtslattve
body of a local agency, except to consider the
employment or dismtssal of a publtc
officer or
employee or to hear complalnts or charges brought
agatnst such ofilcer or employee by another public
ofllcer or employee. The legtslative body also may
exclude from any public or private meettnS, durlng
the examinatlon of a wltness, any or all other
witnesses te the matter betng tnvesttgated by the
legislattve body.
64967. The provislons of thls chaptershall
apply to the legislatlve body of every local agency
nohrrithstanding the conJlicttng provlsions of any
other State law.
The articles herein are reprintedfrom microfilm
Michael Harris's original
serbs Tour Secret Gouernment" which appeared. in tlrc San Froncisco Chroni,cle,
May 25 - Junc 4, 1952.
Illustrations in this brochure appeared with the original series and were drawn
by staff artist Hubert Buel excepting the cartoon on page 12 whith was done by
editorial cartoonist Cloyd O. Sweigert.
This series has been reprinted in honor of the presentati,on
of the 1gg0 James
Mad,ison Award to Michael Hanis
his contribution to Freedom of Infonnatian
in California.
The award was presentedby
the Northem califomia Chapter of the society of
Professional Joumalists, Sigma Delta chi, on March 22, 1990 in san Francisco.
Reprintedby the So,n Francisco Chronicle

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