The South Tucson City Council has been holding closed-door sessions on topics not specified on its agendas.
Such listings are required under the Arizona Open Meetings Law.
Among the topics recently discussed was a claim filed against the city related to its SB 1070 enforcement.
After an objection Wednesday night from the Arizona Daily Star, the city emailed a new version of its Thursday agenda with a description of the night’s closed session: “court matters.”
The email was sent about 4 p.m., with the meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Twenty-four hours of notice is required under the law.
At a March 12 meeting, City Manager Luis Gonzales denied the city had to disclose the subjects it discusses behind closed doors, saying it’s only necessary to cite the provision of the law that describes topics eligible for a closed session.
While the Open Meetings Law does require that citation, it also states: “The agenda shall provide more than just a recital of the statutory provisions authorizing the executive session, but need not contain information that would defeat the purpose of the executive session, compromise the legitimate privacy interests of a public officer, appointee or employee or compromise the attorney-client privilege.”
Dan Barr, a First Amendment attorney with Perkins Coie in Phoenix, said, “If you just cite the statute and include nothing else, I think that’s a problem.”
The Star submitted a complaint about the practice at the council’s March 12 meeting.
Shortly afterward, the council voted to go into executive session. The meeting reopened to the public about an hour later.
The council voted unanimously to have the city’s attorney, Andrea de Castillo, continue to “work on wording of collaboration with the ACLU.” The word “negotiate” was part of the initial motion, but the city manager asked to have it stricken from the record.
In November, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a notice of claim alleging that police illegally detained a Southside Worker Center activist, Alejandro Valenzuela, for immigration purposes. A notice of claim is required before suing a public entity.
“Negotiations are ongoing,” said Steve Kilar, a spokesman with the ACLU’s Phoenix office. The group is seeking policy and procedure changes, he said.