A&A: Does the Brown Act address how long a board member can be absent from meetings?

Q: One of our District Board members has been out of the district for several months.  She has been participating in Board meetings by telephone from Alabama where she is seeking medical attention, but she is not in the district to serve in any way other than these monthly meetings by telephone. How long can this go on and still qualify to be on the Board?

A: The Brown Act, at Government Code section 54953(b), provides that local agencies may use teleconferencing to conduct a meeting and provides the specific rules for so doing:

(b) (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the legislative body of a local agency may use teleconferencing for the benefit of the public and the legislative body of a local agency in connection with any meeting or proceeding authorized by law. The teleconferenced meeting or proceeding shall comply with all requirements of this chapter and all otherwise applicable provisions of law relating to a specific type of meeting or proceeding.
(2) Teleconferencing, as authorized by this section, may be used for all purposes in connection with any meeting within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body. All votes taken during a teleconferenced meeting shall be by rollcall.
(3) If the legislative body of a local agency elects to use teleconferencing, it shall post agendas at all teleconference locations and conduct teleconference meetings in a manner that protects the statutory and constitutional rights of the parties or the public appearing before the legislative body of a local agency.
Each teleconference location shall be identified in the notice and agenda of the meeting or proceeding, and each teleconference location shall be accessible to the public. During the teleconference, at least a quorum of the members of the legislative body shall participate from locations within the boundaries of the territory over which the local agency exercises jurisdiction, except as
provided in subdivision (d). The agenda shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to address the legislative body directly pursuant to Section 54954.3 at each teleconference location.
(4) For the purposes of this section, “teleconference” means a meeting of a legislative body, the members of which are in different locations, connected by electronic means, through either audio or video, or both. Nothing in this section shall prohibit a local agency from providing the public with additional teleconference locations.

As you can see, the Brown Act itself does not limit the number of telephone conferences that may be held.

There may be other provisions of law, such as the agency’s own bylaws, that require that a board member live in or be present in the jurisdiction. However, those issues extend beyond the expertise in open government and freedom of speech issues that we provide through this hotline.