A&A: Serial Meetings 101

Q: A citizen here has asked the DA to investigate Riverside County supervisors for possible violation of the “serial meetings” provision of the Brown Act. Could someone explain to me exactly how a series of two-person conversations can violate the act? On a five-member board, if A discusses X with B, and then B discusses X with C, does that violate the law? Or does A have to ask B to discuss it with C in order to violate? Please advise.

A: The Brown Act precludes a majority of the supervisors from “develop[ing] a collective concurrence as to action to be taken” through a series of communications, either by telephone or through intermediaries.

This would seem to mean that, on a 5-member board, if A talks to B and they agree to vote a particular way, and the B talks to C and C agrees to vote the same way, that would violate the Brown Act regardless of whether there is any evidence that A asked B to talk to C.

However, the Brown Act does not prevent A from talking to B or B from talking C.  It prevents them from developing an agreement, even through a series of conversations, on what a majority will do on some item that is or will be pending before them.