On Tuesday, the Half Moon Bay City Council met with San Mateo County Sheriff’s Capt. Saul Lopez in closed session, before the regularly scheduled City Council meeting. In doing so, the city invoked California Government Code 54957.

The code subsection allows public bodies to meet in private with certain individuals for specific security concerns. In doing so, the city suggests “a threat to the security of public buildings, a threat to the security of essential public services, including water, drinking water, wastewater treatment, natural gas service, and electric service, or a threat to the public’s right of access to public services or public facilities.” Note the law doesn’t allow for private discussions of generalized security issues, but rather threats to public infrastructure.

California Newspaper Publishers Association counsel Jim Ewert said it’s very unusual for local government to seek such an exemption to California public meetings law, but that it may not be in the future. He said courts might take a more expansive view of the narrow provisions of the subsection in light of the deadly shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. 

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