Los Angeles County supervisors violated the law last fall when they held a closed-door meeting with Gov. Jerry Brown to discuss a controversial plan to give local governments responsibility for nonviolent prisoners and probationers, according to the district attorney's office.
Under the new mandate, dubbed realignment, prisoners convicted of nonviolent and non-sex-related crimes, such as low-level drug offenders or thieves, are to be kept in county jails instead of state prison. When released, those prisoners, who would have been on state parole in the past, will have to be monitored by county probation officials.
Before the law went into effect, supervisors met behind closed doors with Brown on Sept. 26 to discuss the plan. At the time, Brown aides said he was responding to an invitation from supervisors and had not asked that the meeting be closed to the public.
A Times editorial writer filed a complaint with county district attorneys after the meeting, saying the supervisors had violated the state's open meeting laws.
Attorneys for the supervisors said state officials had not adequately disclosed the scope and details of the realignment plan, which could endanger the public's access to services and facilities.
But in a letter dated Jan. 24, Jennifer Lentz Snyder, assistant head deputy district attorney, said the meeting should have been open since the information discussed was not sensitive enough to constitute a public threat.
"The closed session was simply not permissible under the law," wrote Lentz Snyder. No additional legal action was recommended, because the board is not likely to hold another such meeting, the letter says.
The supervisors' top legal advisor, County Counsel Andrea Sheridan Ordin, said Monday in an email that "reasonable people and even reasonable lawyers can disagree."
Transferring inmates, some with serious mental health problems, without adequate funding was seen by the board as "a unique and potential threat" to inmates' access to public services and a "grave public safety issue," Ordin said.
Asked if she will now release an audio recording of the meeting, Ordin said, "We don't believe any other remedy is necessary."
A spokesperson for Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who was the chairman during the Sept. 26 meeting, could not be reached. Spokespersons for the current chairman, Zev Yaroslavsky, and Brown did not have an immediate comment.