Freelance Reporter Says Lawsuit Not Needed Now
• Local Resident Had Threatened Litigation over Closed Meetings and Unavailable Documents
BY ANNE SOBLE
BY ANNE SOBLE
In an email to members of the Malibu City Council on Monday, local newspaper freelancer Hans Laetz said that the opening of last week’s meeting on the paparazzi to the public and the agreement to make research documents public satisfy the concerns he recently raised about municipal Brown Act violations.
Laetz wrote, “Continuous openness is mandatory as the city evaluates a possible paparazzi ordinance, and had that policy been in effect from April 30 forward it would have spared all of us much time and hassle. The people’s business can only be conducted in public, and contrary to the city attorney’s opinion, the Brown Act specifically covers any committee that the city council OKs, even a committee of one, and even if the original vote is less formal than usual.”
On whether he intends to litigate on the issues he raised, Laetz wrote, “The mayor's welcome policy change certainly removes the need for a lawsuit...In good faith, no lawsuit can be filed so long as the city is holding public sessions.”
Laetz said the decision not to litigate at this time does not mean he is not going to continue to personally monitor the mayor’s solo efforts to possibly draft legislative restrictions on paparazzi activities in Malibu.
He said that because the latest official meeting of what he has dubbed the “MaliPapCom” was open to the public, “We learn that the city is researching how freelance reporters and photographers can be forced to buy insurance, bonds, or business licenses, and pay special taxes in Malibu.”
Laetz expressed concern that “freelance journalists would be prohibited from covering items of public interest at or near schools, and that the city would start defining what is “acceptable journalism” to weed out paparazzi from those of us covering legitimate news.”
Laetz said, “None of that is constitutional, advisable or needed,” adding that “the real problem is that the few deputies patrolling Malibu cannot be everywhere, and the existing laws we have are not being enforced.”
Laetz said, “Any local effort to protect basic constitutional rights must include appropriate court action should secret meetings resume, documents for a public committee be withheld, or unconstitutional ordinances—that even the local police say are ridiculous and unenforceable— get passed by our city council.”