Judge decides to submit written ruling in lawsuit against city regarding closed-session meetings

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A ruling in a lawsuit against the city over alleged violations of open-meetings laws is expected to come soon. 

Attorney Kelly Aviles, who is representing the First Amendment Coalition and Californians Aware in their lawsuit against the city, said Judge Stephen Schuett decided at a hearing this morning to submit a written ruling, which she expects to be made sometime next week. 

“I think it went well,” she said of the hearing. “The judge understood that what the city had discussed in closed session was not allowed to be discussed in that way. I think the judge heard the fundamentals of the issue.” 

John Szewczyk with Clifford & Brown, who is representing the city, has not yet responded to requests for comment Friday. 

The lawsuit claims that the city violated the Ralph M. Brown Act when it held multiple meetings with the City Council in closed session in fall 2017 regarding significant issues that affect the public, specifically the city’s financial challenges and the need for a more taxes to avoid staff cuts and facility closures. 

In 2017, the FAC was sent emails between city staff and council members as well as a copy of a presentation that was allegedly given during closed session by a source familiar with the discussions. The city eventually gave a similar presentation in public at a City Council meeting.  

The city has claimed in a letter to the organizations that there were no violations of the Brown Act, as the closed-session meetings were held under the legal exemption of “potential litigation.”

However, the FAC has said that exemption does not apply to the wide-ranging discussions that allegedly took place during the meetings, as it is a very narrow exception where it’s likely there will be a lawsuit.

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