Nevada County cannabis group meetings could be open to public
Counsel for Nevada County says it’s likely all eight meetings of the cannabis community advisory group will be open to the public, a shift after the county attorney reviewed the law in response to a request from The Union.
County Counsel Alison Barratt-Green said Monday afternoon, June 12, that her recent review of the advisory group’s status led her to believe that it falls under the Brown Act — the law which requires certain government panels to hold open meetings.
Barratt-Green previously said the panel had no requirement to open all meetings under the Act. Supervisor Hank Weston had said the panel needs to work privately when writing its ordinance recommendations.
“We’re reviewing that now,” Barratt-Green said.
The advisory group, over the next few months, will develop recommendations for the county’s permanent marijuana grow ordinance. It’s scheduled to hold its second meeting from 2 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 13, at the Foothills Event Center, 400 Idaho Maryland Road, Grass Valley.
It costs about $2,060 to rent the venue and video record each advisory group meeting, county officials said.
Daniel Iacofano, principal and CEO of MIG, Inc. — the county’s cannabis consultant — said April 11 that the last two advisory board meetings would be closed to the public. However, he issued a contradictory statement at the first meeting on May 23.
“This is a meeting process governed or overseen by the Brown Act, which is the open meetings law,” Iacofano said. “As such, it follows those protocols.”
Two attorneys contacted by The Union said it appeared the county would violate the Brown Act if it shuttered any meetings of the advisory panel. Both lawyers pointed to government code Section 54952(b), which states that a committee created by resolution is a “legislative body,” regardless of whether it’s advisory or temporary.
“I think it would be wise to comply with the Act unless there is clear legal analysis by the county showing that the committee is exempt under the law,” said Nikki Moore, legal counsel with the California News Publishers Association, in an email. “This analysis should be conducted, keeping in mind that the state’s constitutional right of access demands that the law be read narrowly when the public is excluded from accessing government.”
Mary-Beth Moylan, professor of lawyering skills at the McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, also referenced the code section.
“The plain language of the Brown Act provides that committees created by legislative bodies through resolutions still need to comply with regular meeting requirements even if they are advisory and temporary,” Moylan said in an email.
The advisory group will gather information and hear from the public over its first six meetings. It’ll develop its recommendations in its last two meetings. The group will then present its recommendations to supervisors, who have said they want a new ordinance in place by March.