A&A: School Board Meetings without Notice

Q: As a parent and voter, I am concerned that my school board is holding meetings in violation of the Brown Act. Our district is in contract negotiations with the teachers’ union. The following message appears on the school district website: “When meetings are called regarding negotiations, based on the provisions in California Government Code Section 3549.1, notice is not required to be given to the public.” The school board trustees have already held one such “secret” meeting and are intending on holding more. Is the board of trustees behaving appropriately within the law? If not, what action do you advise?

A: According to Government Code § 3549.1:
All the proceedings set forth in subdivisions (a) to (d), inclusive, are exempt from the provisions of Sections 35144 and 35145 of the Education Code, the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act (Article 9 (commencing with Section 11120) of Chapter 1 of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2), and the Ralph M. Brown Act (Chapter 9 (commencing with Section 54950) of Part 1 of Division 2 of Title 5), unless the parties mutually agree otherwise:

(a) Any meeting and negotiating discussion between a public school employer and a recognized or certified employee organization.

(b) Any meeting of a mediator with either party or both parties to the meeting and negotiating process.

(c) Any hearing, meeting, or investigation conducted by a factfinder or arbitrator.

(d) Any executive session of the public school employer or between the public school employer and its designated representative for the purpose of discussing its position regarding any matter within the scope of representation and instructing its designated representatives.

To the extent the meetings you describe meet any of these criteria, it would seem that they would not need to comply with California’s open meetings acts. Of course, if the meetings don’t actually fit into any of these categories, the Brown Act should apply.