A&A: Regularly Scheduled Special Meetings

Regularly Scheduled Special Meetings

Q: Can a regularly scheduled meeting be called a “Special Meeting” Can a Closed Session be called a Special Meeting if the “reporting out” is part of the immediately following regular meeting?

A: Under the Brown Act, a “special meeting” may be called to discuss or act on a matter that is too pressing to delay until a regular meeting, or an issue that deserves extensive consideration unburdened by other business.  However, the “special meeting” provision is not expressly limited for these purposes.  The Brown Act provides that “[a] special meeting may be called at any time by the presiding officer of the legislative body of a local agency, or by a majority of the members of the legislative body.”  Gov’t Code § 54956.  However, certain requirements must be met.  First, written notice must be delivered personally or by mail to each member of the board and to each local newspaper of general circulation, radio or TV station that has requested notices in writing from the board (unless any of these have submitted a written document waiving such notice).  Second, the notice must be received at least 24 hours before the time of the meeting specified in the notice. Third, the notice must specify the time, date and place of the meeting and the business to be transacted.  No other business shall be considered.   Fourth, the notice must be posted at least 24 hours prior to the special meeting in a location that is freely accessible to members of the public.  Gov’t Code § 54956.

The third of these requirements might be cited as a basis for arguing that the legislative body’s practice is improper.  If “[n]o other business shall be considered” at the time, date and place of the special session, then holding a regular session where other business is transacted (as is typically the case during regular meetings) would seem to violate section 54956.

With respect to whether a closed session can be called a special meeting, it is not entirely clear whether this would violate the Brown Act.  However, the above discussion would, at the very least, suggest that section 54956 was never intended to allow a legislative body to provide only 24 hours notice of a closed session that is being held right before the open regular session.  This is consistent with the requirement in section 54954.2 that agendas for regular sessions posted 72 hours in advance must contain a brief general description not only of items to be discussed in open session, but also “items to be discussed in closed session.”