City Council Sends "Muscle" to Prevent Public & Press from attending Hearing on Code Enforcement Action Against City Council Candidate Phil Lough

Manure on the Street?

The Loughs have llamas, goats, chickens, and pets. They were featured on ABCs "Shark Tank" in February 2010.

Loughs on "Shark Tank"

Mr Lough said that first Code Enforcement action against them in early 2010 was for "manure on the street". The Loughs explained that it was instead droppings from a nearby rubber tree.

Code Enforcement in the City is "complaint driven". A neighbor may have made a complaint.

Additional violations were added including setback, too many animals, flies, and a chicken walking in the setback.

The Loughs presented evidence that Los Angeles County Animal Control and Los Angeles County Vector Control inspected their property and found everthing was fine.

The Loughs installed a fence and got a permit for a shed.

According to the Loughs, the remaining issue appeared to be whether they had 4 goats as allowed by Code or 5 goats as claimed by the City. The Loughs said that the 5th goat had died.

The Loughs applied for an Administrative Hearing to challenge the Citation issued by the City. The Hearing was December 27th at 9:00 A.M.

Hearings to Be Open to Public

In June 2004, the City Council approved Administrative Fines and Reviews. Staff was given authority to write citations and fine residents for Code violations. The ordinance provided a Preliminary Review and Administrative Hearing for those who felt they were unjustly cited.

At the May 2004 first reading, Councilmember Millsap asked if Administrative Hearings would be open to the public.
City Attorney Colantuono answered that they would be.

Concerns Over Abuse of Residents

"Mayor Pro Tem Douglas asked if this procedure opened the possibility of abuse of a resident in the future.
City Attorney Colantuono answered that it would probably not, as we can not make the penalties stick without judicial assistance. The City would be supervised by the Court*".
* From Official City Council Minutes linked above

Not as Intended

On December 27, 2010, at the first, or one of few, Administrative Hearings, the City used its full muscle to prevent members of the public, press, and even the children of the family cited from listening to the hearing.

Staff was preparing for accomodating the public when City Manager Shauna Clark arrived at 9:10 A.M. flanked by the $100 per hour Fire Chief and an armed $260 per hour Sheriff's Deputy.

City Council Phalanx to Keep Public Out
Deputy Guards City Manager*
*Photo Courtesy of Aida Lough

City Manager Invokes 4th Amendment

When challenged on the legality of excluding the public and press, the $175 per hour Assistant City Attorney said they would not be allowed. City Manager Shauna Clark demanded that her comments not be recorded, supported by the Assistant City Attorney, who said it would violate Ms. Clark's 4th Amendment rights.

Asst. City Attorney Yana Welinder

The fourth amendment says, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated"
It was unclear what actions had been committed to invoke the 4th Amendment and there would be no expectation of privacy in the Meeting Room at City Hall.

Appellants Aida and Phil Lough asked for the Public and Press to be allowed into the hearing to no avail.

Behind Closed Doors

The Sheriff's deputy stood guard at the hearing door to prevent anyone from entering or getting near enough to listen to the closed hearing.

Armed Deputy Guarding Against Entry to
or Listening Near Hearing Room

When queried about the purpose of her presence, the Deputy said she had been called in "to keep the peace".
The City's only Deputy was not patrolling the streets or citing lawbreakers for several hours.

14 year old Twins were 2 of the 3 people excluded from the Hearing

Open it Up

Another City Council Candidate, Roy Francis, visiting City Hall to get some information entered the Multi-Purpose Room. When asked what he thought of the Closed Door hearing, he said,
"Open it up. What do they have to hide?"

See City of La Habra Heights Closed Door Policy.

Listen yourself

Appellant Aida Lough was able to record portions of the hearing. The Hearing Officer at one point did forbid her from recording, even though both he and the City Staff had their own recorders going.

Listen to part of the hearing
Courtesy of

Hearing Ends

Exiting the hearing room shortly after 12 noon, Phil Lough said that he did not feel they got a fair hearing because they were not allowed to enter evidence of the City's failure to follow due process or follow City Codes.

Loughs leaving hearing room

Hearing Officer John van Doren slipped out the side door, avoiding waiting press.

Mr van Doren slips out the side door

Outside, he initially avoided questions about his qualifications and whom he worked for.
Later he was more forthcoming and said that the Loughs received a fair hearing as described in the Code, and that they were able to present their case regarding the items they were cited for.

A decision is expected by Thursday.

Standing up for the Rural Environment

Mr. Lough said that the Codes are now being interpreted away from the General Plan, are removing animal keeping, and doing so in draconian fashion.

He noted the Council's focus on building urban estates and spec houses over preserving the rural environment.

Lough said one of the reasons he is running is to preserve the rural environment, declaring, "once it's gone, it's gone", and "I'm willing to be the one that stands up for it.".