Q: Does the Brown Act apply to city council appointed committees? If it does, how is a city supposed to conduct the necessary extended deliberations critical to producing good decisions regarding (among other things) public services and expenditures of public funds?
A: Whether the Brown Act’s meeting requirements apply to committees created by the city council depends on whether the particular committee may be defined as a “legislative body.”
Under the Brown Act, a “legislative body” is defined to include a commission, committee, board or other body of a local agency created by charter, ordinance, resolution or formal action of a legislative body; or standing committees of a legislative body that have continuing subject matter jurisdiction. Cal. Gov’t Code § 54952(b), (c).
However, “advisory committees, composed solely of the members of the legislative body that are less than a quorum of the legislative body are not legislative bodies, except that standing committees of a legislative body, irrespective of their composition, which have a continuing subject matter jurisdiction, or a meeting schedule fixed by charter, ordinance, resolution, or formal action of a legislative body are legislative bodies for purposes of this chapter.” Cal. Gov’t Code § 54952(b) (emph. added).
Essentially, if the committee was created by formal action, but falls under the ad hoc sub-quorum committee exemption, then the committee does not have to adhere to the Brown Act’s meeting requirements. Government Code § 54952(b). On the other hand, if the committee is a standing committee, which has “continuing jurisdiction” over a particular subject matter (e.g., budget, finance, legislation), OR has a meeting schedule that is fixed by some formal action of the legislative body, then that committee is required to abide by the Brown Act’s meeting requirements. (Gov’t Code § 54952(b)).
The California Attorney General’s Office illustrates in its Brown Act publication, http://ift.tt/1jmCdT1, how § 54952 operates with respect to committees created by city councils. For example, an advisory committee created by the city council that is comprised of two council members for the purpose of reviewing all issues related to parks and recreation in the city on an ongoing basis is a standing committee that is subject to the Act because it has continuing jurisdiction over issues related to parks and recreation in the city, even though its makeup includes less than a quorum of the city council.
On the other hand, if the city council creates an advisory committee comprised of two city council members for the purpose of producing a report in six months on downtown traffic congestion, such committee is exempt because it is comprised solely of less than a quorum of the members of the city council, and it is not a standing committee because it is charged with accomplishing a specific task in a short period of time.
If the committee appointed by the city council is subject to the Brown Act, the public may have the right to attend meetings of the committee, the right to notice of meetings, the right to have the body take no action on matters not on the agenda, and the right to speak on any item on the agenda. Gov’t Code §§ 54950, 54953(a), 54954.2(a), 54956.
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