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Candidate protests council's closed-door breakfasts before public meetings

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  1. Freedom of Information
Candidate protests council's closed-door breakfasts before public meetings 06/28/1994 WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A candidate for City Council is protesting the…

Candidate protests council’s closed-door breakfasts before public meetings

06/28/1994

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A candidate for City Council is protesting the closed-door breakfasts that occur every two weeks before the council’s public legislative sessions.

Dorothy Brizill, a council candidate, said the breakfast gatherings violate the city’s freedom of information act because substantive debate occurs while members eat doughnuts and drink coffee.

“All meetings…of the Council of the District of Columbia, at which official action of any kind is taken shall be open to the public,” the D.C. open meetings law says.

“It became very clear that there was horsetrading of votes and discussion of issues,” Brizill said.

Brizill and Cara Hesse, executive director of D.C. Common Cause, were turned away from a breakfast meeting on June 21.

“Decisions are coming out from the council where no legislative debate occurred,” Hesse said. “When there’s a quorum, it should be open to the public.”

Councilmember James Nathanson said no votes are cast and no substantive matters are decided at the breakfasts.

“Maybe we should label this room as the cloak room,” Nathanson said. “It’s a relatively relaxed atmosphere. No discussions there have replaced debate in the chamber.”

Brizill said the formal breakfast gatherings started taking place about two years ago. She said the open legislative sessions were delayed because of discussion at the breakfasts. The session started 90 minutes late on June 7, the day the council debated the district’s yearly comprehensive plan.

Common Cause is considering the possibility of legal action to stop the closed gatherings, Hesse said.

(D.C. Code Ann.  1-1504)