The District Attorney’s Office recently determined that Foster City Councilman Sanjay Gehani violated the Brown Act in the El Torito matter, but they chose not to pursue any punishment (“Councilman violates Brown Act” in the Aug. 14 edition of the Daily Journal).
The Brown Act prohibits councilmembers from discussing matters that are within the subject matter jurisdiction of the council with a majority of the Council other than in noticed meetings. It provides the bedrock for good governance. It is very important that elected officials not be allowed to violate that law without any consequences. Not punishing violations only encourages officials to govern behind closed doors and not in open meetings where the public can view the deliberations and offer comments.
Councilman Gehani is reported to have admitted to committing the violation, attributing it to “a rookie mistake.” However, ignorance of the law is no excuse, and he certainly was aware of the content of the act.
My concern is not so much about the specifics of this particular case, but about the precedent it sets. It is not about my opinion of Councilman Gehani personally, but about his actions. All violations by any council members should be penalized. We should hold our elected officials to the highest ethical standards, and hold them accountable when they fall short.
I urge our community not to take this infraction lightly, and for the City Council to take strong and public action to address this violation and make it clear that these kinds of actions are not acceptable. This is not about politics. It is about good government.