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Montrose Shopping Park board considers closed meetings

Group believes the move might foster more open dialogue among members.

January 03, 2013|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com

Board directors for the Montrose Shopping Park Assn. on Thursday voiced support for holding closed-door meetings, with proponents saying the open format discourages frank discussion about potentially uncomfortable topics.

The group is a quasi-governmental association set up by the city decades ago, but members say they've gotten mixed messages about whether they have to follow state public-meeting laws.

“It depends on who you talk to,” said Executive Director Dale Dawson, adding that for years the group has been following state rules just in case.

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He was referring to the Brown Act, a California law that requires everything from City Council to school board meetings to be public, although there are exceptions when it comes to discussing legal matters.

Ken Grayson, president of the board of directors, said there have been times when members feel they want to discuss an issue with each other, but feel they can't because it would ruffle feathers.

Specifically, Grayson said he could see the group meeting in closed session to discuss personnel matters, which is doable under the Brown Act, as well as other issues. When asked for specifics, he said the group needs “to find out more exactly what we can do without causing a problem.”

Vice President Andre Ordubegian said sometimes the smallest items can get bogged down in public comments and it's difficult for the board to reach decisions.

The confusion stems from whether the business improvement district collects government funds, which would trigger the public meeting rules, board members said. The group's members fund it through annual fees, but those fees are collected by the city and distributed back to the association to pay for promotional events.

Despite the desire for closed sessions, the group's monthly meetings at 8 a.m. are lightly attended. On Thursday, just two business owners other than the elected officials were there.

Even after discussing the possibility of closed sessions, the board decided to increase transparency of its financial data by adding an extra layer of oversight.

For the first time in years, the board plans to hire an accountant to review the organization's books, a suggestion from the City Council last month when the Montrose Shopping Park Assn. presented its 2013 budget at City Hall.

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