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Leader Editorial: Burbank council should listen to city's attorney

April 05, 2013

Every week many private and public entities across the state welcome new employees to the job. These workers are knowledgeable about the broad scope of the tasks ahead, or they wouldn't have been hired in the first place. Nonetheless, their employers understand they will face a learning curve. Adjustments are made until the worker is up to speed.

The same holds true for elected panels, such as school boards and city councils. No one in a community would expect a newly-elected representative to have in-depth knowledge of all the inner workings of such a body, no matter how many public meetings he or she attended prior to being elected. Nor would they have knowledge of matters that have been legitimately kept behind closed doors. There is time to learn these things without causing any harm to the community at large.

Apparently the Burbank City Council is not as confident about the ability of newbies to catch on. A dozen years ago, its members amended the municipal code to allow individuals who have been elected to the council — but not yet sworn in — attend closed sessions. It was their reasoning that city business would be negatively impacted if the new person didn't learn about pending litigation and other matters before becoming a full-fledged member of the council.

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After Bob Frutos was elected to the City Council last month, its current members wanted him to be allowed to sit in on their closed sessions prior to his swearing-in ceremony. City Atty. Amy Albano advised against this, pointing out that allowing Frutos to join them behind closed doors would violate provisions of the Brown Act, which limits attendees to those with an official role.

This did not sit well with council members, who this week decided to go above the city of Burbank's paid, in-house counsel and seek an opinion from the state attorney general's office, obviously in hopes that they can get someone else to agree with their point of view.

Instead of seeking state approval for this scheme, the City Council should listen to its attorney. Frutos already has the public's endorsement to serve the community with wisdom and with its best interests at heart; there's no reason to think he can't grasp the job once he gets started. He will be sworn in at the beginning of May and can wait until then to attend closed sessions.

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