To the surprise of no one, City Council member Tom Rouse was nominated and unanimously approved as the new mayor of Sonoma Monday night, and David Cook, completing his first year as a council member, was elected mayor pro tem.
That, notwithstanding the voiced objection of Councilmember Steve Barbose, who had earlier called on outgoing mayor Ken Brown to recuse himself from a vote Barbose insisted was tainted by Brown’s Nov. 16 announcement at a Sonoma Valley Hospital celebration, that Rouse and Cook would soon assume their mayoral duties.
Barbose, the only council member not present at the hospital event, objected at the next council meeting on Nov. 18 that Brown had violated the Brown Act by stating an opinion as a matter of fact, suggesting that the necessary deliberation to choose a new mayor had already taken place outside public purview.
Had that been the case, it would have constituted a violation of the Ralph A. Brown Open Meeting Law, which prohibits a group of legislators or public decision makers, constituting a majority of the body, from holding policy discussions outside a public meeting.
City Attorney Jeff Walter, however, responded to a City Council query that he did not believe Brown’s comments represented a Brown Act violation, and Brown himself insisted his words were innocently exuberant and that he had talked to no other council member about the issue before hand.