In March 2011, the Manhattan Beach City Council (MBCC) pleaded guilty in a settlement to a lawsuit by Richard P. McKee, an open-government champion, for violations of open meeting laws and access to public records related to the firing of former City Manager Geoff Dolan. The MBCC further promised residents a “renewed commitment to open and transparent government.”
March 2012 finds that the MBCC has reneged on both its commitment and the settlement. Specifically, the MBCC promised to produce all related public records but has refused to provide the investigation into the alleged sexual misconduct of Dolan resulting in his severance of nearly $200,000.
If the investigation documented the allegation, the MBCC could have and should have fired Dolan for moral turpitude without any severance.
By its nondisclosure, the MBCC protects itself from charges of malfeasance and creates a cankerous wound on the soul and spirit of our community.
Further, the MBCC has not produced the required protocol for responding to requests for public records to ensure compliance to the California Public Records Act and only superficially provided the promised training to staff and elected and appointed officials on state laws protecting the public’s right to know.
Its open-government Initiatives remain a series of platitudes rather than meaningful reforms. The opportunity for public input at council meetings remains the most restrictive of all the South Bay cities.
In fact, the MBCC has implemented repressive measures to further diminish public participation; held illegal closed sessions; and has negated public input into budgeting, labor relations, and strategic planning policymaking.
Had the MBCC been found guilty at a trial, the penalties would have been severely more onerous than McKee’s settlement terms, including invalidation of Dolan’s $200,000 severance. However, he trusted the MBCC.
McKee died in April 2011. Alive today, McKee would be chagrined at his misplaced trust but would retain his respect for elected officials and his commitment to protect our liberties.
Edward C. Caprielian, Ph.D.
Manhattan Beach resident