A&A: Housing Authority Board of Commissioners and the Brown Act

Housing Authority Board of Commissioners and the Brown Act

Q: Recently, there was a Planning Commission meeting held regarding a development.  Over 100 people showed up for the meeting. The developer claimed that their presentation would be incomplete, and therefore there would be no point in having the meeting. The Planning Commission concurred and the meeting was canceled and has yet to be rescheduled. Is this a violation of the Brown Act?

A: Although I certainly understand your frustration at the meeting you describe being cancelled after 100 people took time out of their day to show up for the meeting (and presumably to weigh in on the development), I am not aware of any provision of the Brown Act which would prevent the cancellation of a meeting or condition cancellation on certain factors. That said, to the extent a meeting were cancelled for the purpose of avoiding public comment and/or scrutiny of a controversial proposal, such cancellation would certainly violate the spirit of the Brown Act.

In general, the Brown Act requires local governmental bodies, like the Planning Commission, to conduct public meetings and to give the public adequate advance notice of their meetings.  The Brown Act does not provide a way to challenge the reasons given by a Planning Commission for scheduling or canceling a meeting.

When the legislative body, like the Planning Commission, adjourns or continues a meeting, it is required to provide notice of when the meeting will be continued.  See Cal. Gov’t Code § 54955 (“The legislative body … may adjourn any regular, adjourned regular, special or adjourned special meeting to a time and place specified in the order of adjournment. …”) and § 54955.1 (“Any hearing being held … by a legislative body of a local agency at any meeting may by order or notice of continuance be continued or recontinued to any subsequent meeting of the legislative body in the same manner and to the same extent set forth in Section 54955 for the adjournment of meetings ….”).

However, there does not appear to be anything in the Brown Act that prevents a legislative body from canceling a meeting without rescheduling, as long as, if the body later wants to consider the issue it gives the required public notice and holds the required public meeting.