A&A: Water Board repeatedly violates Brown Act

Q: I recently attended a meeting of a publicly-elected Water Board. There were three Brown Act violations during the meeting. One of the violations was attempted and the attorney for the Board interrupted the Board and informed them that they were in violation of the Brown Act.

Subsequently, this same Board held an opening of a facility. They did not put the meeting on the calendar of the Board. Nor did they post a Board meeting announcement. Four of the five Board members were present.  There seems to be a pattern of Brown Act abuse.

A: As an initial matter, please note that it is possible that the board members’ attending the facility’s opening ceremony would not violate the Brown Act.

The Brown Act provides that its requirements do not apply to:

“[t]he attendance of a majority of the members of a legislative body at a purely social or ceremonial occasion, provided that a majority of the members do not discuss among themselves business of a specific nature that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body of the local agency” Govt. Code Section 54952.2(c)(5).

It sounds like even if attending the facility opening did not violate the Brown Act, however, you suspect that other actions by the Board did. If you wish to pursue legal action, you may be able to find an attorney to assist you through the First Amendment Coalition’s Lawyer’s Assistance Request Form at https://firstamendmentcoalition.org/legal-hotline/lawyers-assistance-request-form/.

Holme Roberts & Owen LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to First Amendment Coalition hotline inquiries. In responding to these inquiries, we can give general information regarding open government and speech issues but cannot provide specific legal advice or representation.