Super-duper Secret … Sure?

Why did Gilroy City Council need to hold a super-duper secret
closed session meeting on Election Day eve?
Why did Gilroy City Council need to hold a super-duper secret closed session meeting on Election Day eve?

We’re perplexed and extremely troubled by the council’s decision to invoke a little-used law to wrap an extra and unprecedented layer of secrecy around a City Council closed-session meeting.

Normally, when City Council, or any government agency, meets in closed session, they are required to report the general nature of the meeting (negotiations with a specific union, pending litigation and the case name, eminent domain and property information) before the meeting and any vote results after the meeting.

This is intended to give citizens some way of tracking the workings of their government while still allowing a measure of privacy for personnel matters or meetings with attorneys.

But recently, in an unprecedented move, Gilroy’s City Council invoked California code Section 54956.9(a) to discuss “pending litigation” without disclosing any details of the pending litigation under discussion. State law allows this when “disclosure would jeopardize existing settlement negotiations.”

Predictably, this has promoted wild speculation. What could possibly require such aggressive secrecy?

The only comment anyone in the know has made about the super-duper secret closed session meeting is this one from Jay Baksa: ” was felt – and again the attorneys make this call – that by invoking this provision it would lead to the conclusion of this issue.”

Let’s be clear – attorneys, hopefully, are not running the city of Gilroy. The City Council should be, and by invoking this provision, what they have done is elevated this secret issue is to a level far beyond any other consideration that has come before the Council. It must be a matter of “Gilroy National Security.”

If it turns out otherwise, or if it’s an effort to hide something embarrassing to the city, but does not clearly meet a higher standard of need for, then the Council will have forfeited credibility on a closed-door matters.

All Gilroyans – and this includes its elected officials, their attorneys and city employees – need to remember for whom government works. Our elected representatives and their employees work for us, not the other way around.

It’s difficult to conceive of a plausible and legal scenario under which the city might legitimately hold this extra-secret closed meeting that meets not only the letter, but the or the spirit of the state law.

Above all else, save the security of this community, Gilroy’s elected officials, their attorneys and city employees should value the trust that Gilroyans have placed in them. Open and transparent government is the natural extension of that trust.

If this super-duper secret closed session meeting ends up illegitimate, it would represent a very seriou violation of trust. And that would be a sad state of governmental affairs in our community.

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