A&A: Supervisors multi-tasking during public comment

Q: During a hearing on a massive development project the several county supervisors walked around the room, talked on cell phones, or to each other or staff, worked on their computers and otherwise did not listen to any of the public testimony. This is particularly discouraging because this is a massive project with terrible impacts to our community. Does failure to pay attention to the testimony being giver or discussing the matter privately between themselves constitute a Brown Act violation? If so, is the deadline for sending a cure and correct letter 30 days?

A: Although the Brown Act does require that local agency governing board meetings be open to the public, and that the public be permitted to address the board regarding any item within the agency’s jurisdiction, Govt. Code section 54954.3(a), the Brown Act does not require that any Board member pay attention to those comments.

Holme Roberts & Owen LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to FAC 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.