A&A: Barring the Media from recording an Open Meeting

Q: Can a Home Owners Association Board of Directors prohibit a member of the press from recording the events during the open session of the monthly meeting in which the press was invited by a group of home owners?

A: In response to your inquiry below, the threshold question is whether or not the home owners association you reference is subject to the California open meetings law, the Brown Act.  Under Government Code section 54952(c), the governing body of a homeowners association would be subject to the Brown Act under either of two circumstances:

1.  The association is created by an elected legislative body in order to exercise authority that may lawfully be delegated by the elected governing body;

– OR –

2.  The homeowners association (a) receives funds from a local agency (e.g., a county, city, town, etc) and (b) the membership of the governing body of the homeowners association includes a member of the legislative body of the local agency (e.g., if the agency is a city, a member of the city council) whom the legislative body appoints to the governing board of the homeowners association as a full voting member.

If the Brown Act does apply to the homeowners association, pursuant to Government Code section 54953.5, “any person attending … shall have the right to record the proceedings with an audio or video tape recorder… in the absence of a reasonable finding … that the recording cannot continue without noise, illumination, or obstruction of view that constitutes, or would constitute, a persistent disruption of the proceedings.”

If, instead, the association is entirely private, which is typically the case with homeowners associations, and the meeting takes place in a private location not open to the public, there would generally be no obligation to allow the press to record the meeting, even if the press had been invited by some of the homeowners.