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Grand jury slams Oakland City Council’s ‘backroom dealing’

June 20, 2017

 By Kimberly Veklerov : sfchronicle – excerpt

The Oakland City Council disregarded open government laws while pursuing multimillion-dollar deals with developers over public land, a civil grand jury investigation released Monday found.

Council members made decisions in closed-session meetings that should have been made in public session, as required by the state law known as the Brown Act and by the city’s more stringent Sunshine Ordinance, according to the Alameda County grand jury’s report.

 The grand jury looked at the council’s actions for three contracts, together valued at more than $500 million, and found that agreements in all three cases were hashed out through “backroom deals” that received little public input and that raise the specter of favoritism, the report said.

The Brown Act requires that legislative bodies of local governments conduct their meetings in public, with few exceptions, one of which allows for private real estate negotiations so that an agency’s bargaining position is kept confidential. The grand jury concluded that Oakland council members have “seized upon” the real estate exception for closed-door meetings to discuss terms outside the scope outlined by the exemption.

Huge transactions that shape the city’s budget, skyline and real estate portfolio thus are subject to little public scrutiny, the grand jury said…(more)

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