A&A: Special Meetings and Means of Notice

Special Meetings and Means of Notice

Q: Three members of a five member board have called for a special meeting, where the selection process of the General Manager of the district was going to be discussed. The president refused to call the meeting, and or to participate in a conference call.

The meeting was not called because the General Manager (that will be replaced) replied with this information via the district’s attorney:

“The Brown Act requires actual, written notice to all 5 Board members in order to call a special meeting.”

Does the Brown Act prevent a board from holding a special meeting if one member is not notified in writing and that member has not waived a requirement of notification?

The president of the board, who is on vacation had already been notified by phone of the special meeting, and the contents of the meeting. He had previously asked for all written correspondence to be delivered to him via the district email information box, where staff read his mail, print out copies, then he comes in and reads it when he wills. Can a special meeting be called and that absent member notified via email, and or by phone?

A: Section 54946 of the Brown Act regarding special meetings requires that written notice be provided to each member of the legislative body 24 hours before the time of the special meeting.  (Cal. Govt. Code Section 54946).  The Act is clear that the only exception to the “written notice” requirement requires a board member to file a written waiver of this notice requirement with the clerk or secretary of the legislative body.  Absent a filed written waiver of the requirement that he receive written notice of special meetings, it appears that a telephone call to the board member would be insufficient notice.

Thus, the question here is whether an email sent in the normal manner (ie, an email sent to the district email information box, which would be printed out by the staff for the Board member’s review) would constitute sufficient written notice.  According to the Attorney General Opinion and Legislative history cited by the District’s Attorney and noted in your email below, notification via email appears to be an acceptable form of written notification.  (See 43 Ops. Cal.Atty.Gen. 79 (1964) and Legislative History to Senate Bill 138 (1997)). However, Government Code section 54956 also requires that the notice be “received” at least 24 hours before the time of the meeting.  We have been unable to locate any legal authority that would definitively answer the question of whether an email sent to the district’s email-in box, where it is known that the Board member is on vacation and will not receive the notification within the statutory time, would constitute “receipt” for the purposes of the Brown Act.  However, given that the purpose of the notice requirements in section 54956 are to give actual notice, there is a good chance that an email notice under these circumstances would not be deemed to be effective, if it were challenged.

If the Board member were available by phone, one option might be to call the Board member, get a fax number where he or she could be reached in the course of his or her travels (ie, at a Kinkos or another similar location), and fax a written notice.