S.B. County accused of violating Brown Act

10:00 PM PST on Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The Press-Enterprise

San Bernardino County is being accused of violating the Brown Act, California's open-meeting law, as it challenges the state's medical marijuana user program.

San Bernardino County joined San Diego County three years ago in challenging the program, which requires it to issue medical-marijuana identification cards to patients.

The counties petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case last week. The courts have so far ruled against them, upholding the medical marijuana law approved by voters in 1996.

The Marijuana Policy Project, a national marijuana policy reform organization, said Wednesday that the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has failed to keep the public informed of its decisions to appeal.

The group filed a complaint with the district attorney's office in September after an Aug. 26 meeting where the board discussed the lawsuit in closed session but made no announcement of any action taken.

That same day, a sheriff's spokeswoman announced that the county was appealing the case to the California Supreme Court.

Aaron Smith, California policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said his group has been stymied in its attempts to find out the status of the case.

"They seem to have a certain arrogance where they feel like they can flout any state law, including the open-meeting laws," he said.

The county counsel's office was given the authority to pursue the case as far as necessary when the county joined the lawsuit in January 2006, county spokesman David Wert said.

No announcement was necessary at the Aug. 26 meeting because no action was taken, he said.

Terry Franke, general counsel for Californians Aware, an open government advocacy group, said the board must report on any decisions made in closed session about whether to pursue the appeals.

The district attorney's Public Integrity Unit is reviewing the complaint, said spokeswoman Susan Mickey.

Reach Imran Ghori at 951-368-9558 or ighori@PE.com

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