Application of the Brown Act to Volunteer Fire Companies
Q: I am a member of a volunteer fire company and our tax status is a 501c4. Our tax return is part of the Public Records Act, but are the rest of our records part of the same Act? We believe that we are not part of the Brown Act because none of our members are on the Fire Dept. Board or visa versa. We are a separate entity formed by our group back in the 50’s.
A: The Brown Act applies to “legislative bodies” as defined by the Act. a “legislative body” includes:
(c) (1) A board, commission, committee, or other multimember body that governs a private corporation, limited liability company, or other entity that either:
(A) Is created by the elected legislative body in order to exercise authority that may lawfully be delegated by the elected governing body to a private corporation, limited liability company, or other entity.
(B) Receives funds from a local agency and the membership of whose governing body includes a member of the legislative body of the local agency appointed to that governing body as a full voting member by the legislative body of the local agency.
Cal. Govt Code Section 54952(c)(1). Based on your description, your organization does not include a member of the legislative body, so it would not appear to be subject to the Brown Act under Section 54952(c)(1)(B). If the organization was created by the legislative body, however, it may fall under the Brown Act under Section 54952(c)(1)(A).
Generally, records are subject to the Public Records Act when a local agency is covered by the Brown Act. See Cal Govt Code 6252(a). Here, since you note in your inquiry that your organization’s tax returns are subject to the Public Records Act, it may be that some kind of determination has been made in the past that the organization is, in fact, also subject to the Brown Act.