Top Ten Brown Act FAQ from 2014 Legal Hotline Archive

2--computer-for-legal-hotlineTest your Brown Act expertise against the Legal Hotline attorneys’ answers

You have a right to know and we have the Legal Hotline database of hundreds of Brown Act, CPRA, FOIA and free speech questions that were asked by you and answered by our first amendment attorneys.

These questions are the most popular  answers to the most frequently asked questions on our website.

Test your Brown Act expertise with these Top Ten ?’s or ask your own ? at our free

Question 10: Can city business hide behind attorney client privilege?

Question 9: Are city council subcommittees Brown Act exempt?

Q: I am trying to get some skeleton data on a new crop of Brown Act-exempt City Council subcommittees. I requested the subcommittees’ mission statements, which I assumed were set out prior to commencement. Some have had four meetings thus far, and one as many as seven meetings.

I have not received a response regarding the composition and purpose of the subcommittees with purported need to await an absent city manager’s writing up of, or coming up with maybe city attorney-written, descriptions. Shouldn’t there have to already be a description in existence that I can and should ask the city clerk to pony up?  What was the Legal Hotline attorney’s response? 

Question 8: Brown Act rules for nonprofits

Q: As a public non profit corporation that’s primary purpose is to support the public elementary school are we required to comply with the Brown Act? Does having the Principal of the school on the executive board have any bearing on complying with the Brown Act?  And the Legal Hotline answer is…

Questions 7: Are city councilmembers texting during board meetings violating the Brown Act?

Q: We have noticed a new trend during City Council meetings. We are seeing council and staff texting/emailing to each other while on the dais. This is occurring during the public comment item of the meeting and includes the city attorney.   Find out what the Legal Hotline lawyers have to say about texting while governing.

Question 6: The Brown Act and Charter Schools

Q: A local public charter school has elected eight people to their Board of Directors this year. This is a public charter school. It is also a 501.c.3 non-profit corporation. The board of directors is self-selecting, self-electing.

Each time a person was elected to the board, either as an interim officer (Treasurer) or as a new board member, the process was listed under Action Items on the Agenda. The word “election” has never been used. The Action Item that resulted in a board member being elected is always listed this way: “Nominations Committee recommendation.”   The Legal Hotline attorney had this to say…

Question 5: Public Comment Limits Don’t Allow Time To Make Case

Q: Our Irrigation District Board asks for input from the public on agenda items. However, the Board puts a five-minute limit on each individual. The staff has no limits on discussion time, but members of the audience are limited, even when making a case that disagrees with what staff is recommending. They are not very nice about this severe limit. I am the president of the local taxpayers association, and I often present input from many others, rather than require each of them to participate. Is this practice of limiting the public’s participation appropriate?  Find the Legal Hotline’s answer here.

Question 4: How much detail does the Brown Act require for agenda items?

Q: The board of supervisors recently passed a resolution requiring public water and sewer for homes built on properties smaller than 40 acres.  The resolution number was not listed on the agenda. Is this a violation of the Brown Act?   Here’s how the Legal Hotline answered that one…

Question 3: Don’t I have the right to videotape school board meeting?

Q: Yesterday, I videotaped a School District Board Meeting and I was under the understanding that citizens are allowed to videotape as specified under the Government Code Section 54954.3, the Brown Act.  After the meeting, I was approached by two district personnel, one of them being the district superintendent. Both of them told me I could not videotape the meeting. The superintendent specifically said that her and the School Board members had decided that their meetings would never be taped.  The Legal Hotline attorney answered here..

Question 2: Ad hoc committees under the Brown Act

Q: How long can an ad hoc committee stand before it must become a  “standing” subcommittee that holds meetings that the public can attend? Is there a law about this? Here’s the Legal Hotline’s answer.

Question 1: Does the Brown Act allow closed sessions to appoint a legal firm?

Q: Our local water district board is appointing new general counsel. They have agendized this in a special meeting, allowing each prospect to give a presentation on their firm in open session. After each presentation, the board went into closed session pursuant to GC 54957(b)(1), ”Public Employee Appointment: General Counsel.” I have never seen this done before. Can a legislative body refer to General Counsel as a ”Public Employee” and use this GC as safe harbor for closed session?   What’s the Legal Hotline’s answer?