A&A: Public Comment Identification Requirements

Public Comment Identification Requirements

Q: Can an agency require a member of the public to state their name and address in order to address the agency on an agenda item?

A: The Brown Act provides that “[e]very agenda for regular meetings shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the legislative body on any item of interest to the public, before or during the legislative body’s consideration of the item, that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body . . ..”  Cal. Govt. Code Section 54954.3(a).  The Brown Act also provides that “[t]he legislative body of a local agency may adopt reasonable regulations to ensure that the intent of subdivision (a) is carried out, including, but not limited to, regulations limiting the total amount of time allocated for public testimony on particular issues and for each individual speaker.”  Cal. Govt. Code Section 54954.3(b).

However, this provision must be read together with section 54953.3 of the Brown Act, which provides:

“[a] member of the public shall not be required, as a condition to attendance at a meeting of a legislative body . . . to register his or her name, to provide other information, to complete a questionnaire, or otherwise to fulfill any condition precedent to his or her attendance.  If an attendance list, register, questionnaire, or other similar document is posted at or near the entrance to the room where the meeting is to be held, or is circulated to the persons present . . . it shall state clearly that the signing, registering, or completion of the document is voluntary, and that all persons may attend the meeting regardless of whether a person signs, registers, or completes the document.”

We are not aware of any authority applying section 54953.3 to the right to comment.  However, because the right to comment is guaranteed by section 54954.3, and is not conditioned on any specific requirement, the prohibitions in section 54953.3 would also seem to apply to the right to comment.  Accordingly, it does not appear that the Brown Act allows an agency to require a member of the public to state their name and address in order to address the agency during the public comment period.