The Brown Act makes it illegal for a majority of a government body
-- often referred to as a quorum -- to meet privately to discuss
current issues. All debate and decision-making of a majority of the
group, whether it is the City Council or the planning commission,
must be done in public. The law also restricts the sharing of
information between council members and commissioners in private.
McGrath alleges that Dingwall might have violated the Brown Act
when he forwarded research to other commissioners regarding the
delivery hours of a Target retail shopping center being built at the
corner of Brookhurst Street and Adams Avenue.
Dingwall argues that he broke no law because the same information
was later made public and sent to the commissioners through the
normal channels. He said that McGrath has a "personal vendetta"
Dingwall declined further comment on the record for this story.
The incident goes back to early September, when Dingwall appealed
the proposed weekend delivery hours for the retail giant and forced a
public hearing on the matter. About 10 days before the hearing,
Dingwall sent out an e-mail to his other commissioners with research
he compiled about advancements in inventory controls techniques that
stores like Target could adopt in the future.
"Before anyone gets upset, I am not trying to persuade your
decision on the Target Appeal with this communique," he wrote in the
e-mail, obtained by the Huntington Beach Independent. "You will,
however, need the attached background information for my presentation
to make any sense."
Even with the disclaimer, McGrath said Dingwall's e-mail was
"Communicating relevant to decisions before the body would be a
violation of the Brown Act," McGrath said. Later, she added, "I don't
consider this inadvertent."
This isn't the first time commissioners have gotten into trouble
for Brown Act violations. In September 2003, John Scandura admitted
to privately contacting a majority of commissioners on an issue
scheduled before the agency.
Dingwall has also been previously warned about possible Brown Act