A&A: School district denies Brown Act violation. What next?

Q: Thank you for your helpful website. I used your Cure & Correct demand template to submit a Cure & Correct letter to the Board of Trustees and the attorney representing our school district.

My letter was sent on April 10, 2013, and it referenced several Brown Act violations related to a School Board meeting on March 12, 2013 where the decision was made to release me from my position without cause.

The attorney responded back within 30 days (on May 3, 2013 via e-mail) stating that the District determined it had not violated the Brown Act.

The violations:
1. The Agenda for the Board Meeting was not posted for the public 72 hours prior to the meeting; rather, it was posted less than 8 hours prior to the meeting.

2. The Agenda that was posted less than 8 hours prior to the meeting did not contain the Closed Session action item about my release, due to the fact that only the odd numbered pages of the Agenda were posted. The even-numbered pages were on the reverse side of the odd numbered pages; so, they were not visible to the public.

I believe I only have until Friday, May 17, 2013 to take action, and I am not sure if I should contact the D.A. or file a suit in Superior Court. Do you think I need to be represented by an attorney?

A: Indeed, it seems that the school district may have violated the Brown Act by failing to post the school board meeting agenda at least 72 hours before the meeting (if this was a regular meeting) (Gov’t Code § 54954.2(a)), and by failing to provide a description of the items to be discussed in the closed session (Gov’t Code § 54954.2(a), 54954.5).
As you note, your options at this point would either to be to file a lawsuit yourself in order to enforce a Brown Act violation, or to refer the matter to the district attorney, who would have discretion as to whether to investigate and prosecute the matter criminally.  If you did file a lawsuit and win, any action taken that was done under a Brown Act meeting violation could be nullified.  Gov’t Code § 54960.1(a).
Unfortunately, we cannot provide any specific advice as to your next steps here.  However, if you believe that you were unlawfully released from your position by the school board, you may want to consider taking a different tack and contact an employment lawyer, who could evaluate whether the school board followed the proper procedures, as provided for in the district’s employment guidelines, in terminating your employment.
Bryan Cave 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.