Individual Meetings for Review
Q: Does the following constitute a violation of the Brown Act’s prohibition on serial informal meetings?
An architect of a controversial project in Palo Alto met individually with 4 of 5 members of the Architectural Review Board following a particularly negative public review. It seems his purpose was to get feedback on his designs and try to shape them in a way the board would approve at an upcoming review. At the second public review, he and board members mentioned these private meetings. It doesn’t sound as though board members talked amongst themselves in the period between the first and second public reviews. Does this constitute serial meetings and therefore a violation?
A: If “met individually” means the architect met one on one with 4 of the 5 members — so that he had 4 separate meetings, each w/ one board member — that would not violate the Brown Act, which specifically allows meetings between members of a legislative body and another person. If the architect served in essence as a go-between to allow a majority of the board to engage in what amounts to collective deliberation, or to form a consensus on how they would vote if the architect made certain changes, that could implicate the prohibition on serial meetings. But otherwise, the one-on-one meetings would not violate the Act.