Simi Valley Will Re-Do Its Vote on SB 54. Here’s Why.

On April 23, Simi Valley became the first city in Ventura County to formally oppose SB 54, even agreeing to file an amicus brief in support of the Trump administration’s lawsuit against California. Next month, the city will do it all over again.

The do-over is a result of legal threats made by 17 Simi Valley residents who say the city violated the state’s open meeting law by making that decision behind closed doors. The decision to file the amicus letter was made in closed session and then announced in a subsequent open session by City Attorney Lonnie Eldridge. That’s illegal, the residents claim.

California’s Ralph M. Brown Act does allow for closed session discussions on pending litigation to prevent ‘prejudicing’ the local agency involved. But “there is nothing to indicate that discussion in open session about joining in an ‘amicus letter’ in support of the Trump administration’s (lawsuit) would ‘prejudice the position of the local agency in the litigation,” argued attorney Zakia Kator who represents the 17 potential plaintiffs.

Kator says she’s pleased with the city’s decision to hold the vote a second time and that it essentially ends the threat of a lawsuit. But the city wants to be clear that it is doing so only for the purposes of transparency. Simi Valley does not believe it was legally obligated to hold the discussion in open session, said City Manager Eric Levitt.