A&A: Barred from entering public school board meeting

Barred from entering public school board meeting

Q: The husband of a local school board member physically prevented a group of teachers from entering a public school board meeting, held at the school district office. One lawyer we checked with said it wasn’t a violation of California’s open meetings law, because the husband wasn’t a school official or board member. We’re trying to find out what, if any, law he violated.

A: The short answer is that there may be a pretty good argument that the husband was acting as the agent of his board member spouse, in which case what he did would violate the Brown Act (just as if his board member spouse had blocked access to the meeting). The board and spouse would probably argue that the husband wasn’t acting as his wife’s agent, but on his own, so the board and district isn’t responsible. However, that argument becomes harder to sustain if the board and spouse don’t agree that what the husband did was wrong and publicly rebuke him in some way that makes clear the board won’t allow that to happen again.

There also may be an argument that the district/board has the obligation (especially if this occurred on its property), to ensure that members of the public have access (and are not denied access), and therefore violated the Brown Act by not preventing the husband from doing what he did (especially if someone made a scene that night or was able to bring this to the attention of other people at the meeting).

Finally, it’s also possible that, if the husband used any force (eg, touched the teachers while blocking access), there could be a criminal violation.