A&A: Advisory committees and the Brown Act

Advisory committees and the Brown Act

Q: The local school board recently changed the high school graduation requirement, with no prior parent notification or input. An advisory committee comprised of 30 teachers and district administrators reviewed graduation requirements and compiled a report and recommendation to the Board.  Since no community members or parents were included on the committee, or notified of its existence, was this a violation of the Brown Act?

A: The question you appear to be asking is whether the advisory committee was subject to the Brown Act (Government Code § 54950 et seq.).

The Brown Act does not impose requirements on local agencies regarding how such committees may be constituted, i.e. who must or can be on an advisory committee.

The Brown Act does address whether the meetings of such committees must be open and public, in accordance with the various requirements of the Brown Act (such as the requirement for the posting of agendas of meetings, providing for public attendance and comment, etc.).  The question of whether the Brown Act requirements apply depends on whether the advisory committee is or was a “legislative body” under the Brown Act.

The Brown Act defines “legislative body,” for purposes of your question, as follows:

Gov’t Code § 54952. As used in this chapter, “legislative body” means:
(a) The governing body of a local agency or any other local body created by state or federal statute.
(b) A commission, committee, board, or other body of a local agency, whether permanent or temporary, decision-making or advisory, created by charter, ordinance, resolution, or formal action of a legislative body. However, advisory committees, composed solely of the members of the legislative body that are less than a quorum of the legislative body are not legislative bodies, except that standing committees of a legislative body, irrespective of their composition, which have a continuing subject matter jurisdiction, or a meeting schedule fixed by charter, ordinance, resolution, or formal action of a legislative body are legislative bodies for purposes of this chapter.

Therefore, if the advisory committee was created by some kind of formal action of another, existing legislative body (for example, the school board), and did not consist exclusively of members of the school board (making up less than a quorum of the school board), then it was subject to the Brown Act, and was required to proceed accordingly.