California open government roundup: Note passing at Morgan Hills school board meeting raises questions

California Open Gov Roundup

While considering whether to move sixth grade classes to middle school, the Morgan Hill schools superintendent passed a note to a board member prompting her on a point of parliamentary procedure. Members of the public objected at the time and later charged that note-passing violated the Brown Act, California’s open meeting law. (Morgan Hill Times, August 21, 2015, by Scott Forstner)

An Alameda County water district argued that Grand Jury objections to closed door negotiations on the purchase of 5000 acres of watershed were ill-founded. The Zone 7 Water Agency said the negotiations were closed to protect the possibility of a lower price and conducted according to Brown Act regulations. (The Independent, August 25, 2015, by Ron McNicoll)

Los Angeles County Supervisors retracted a vote on a controversial plan for a new downtown jail. It was clear that the vote surprised the public since it was not announced on the meetings agenda, and those for a smaller project felt they were deprived of a chance to make their points. The jail plan will be reconsidered on September 1. (Los Angeles Times, August 18, 2015, by Abby Sewell)

A Southern California district attorney’s office warned that sending a “reply all” e-mail among public officials can create a de facto serial meeting in violation of the Brown Act. Public officials entering into discussion of government issues on Facebook face similar problems if others on the same legislative body also voice their opinions thus creating a discussion of an issue outside a noticed public meeting.  (JD Supra, August 17, 2015, by Jordan Ferguson of Best Best & Krieger LLP)

Former Paradise Planning Commissioner Mike Zuccolillo claimed the town council violated the Brown Act when the town manager sent e-mails ahead of a council meeting on the process of removing him from office. (Paradise Post, August 15, 2015, by Trevor Warner)

An editorial in the Paradise Post, August 14, 2015, observes that the vote to dismiss Zuccolillo was taken with no discussion and without supporting evidence adding to the perception that the council had already determined their position.

Even the city attorney had to admit that the Dinuba Planning Commission had run afoul of the Brown Act in convening in private to consider a conditional use permit for the former Masonic Temple. (The Dinuba Sentinel, August 13, 2015, by Linda Renn)

The La Habra Heights City Council also found itself accused of violating the Brown Act with a closed session when it met privately last January to consider how to word a ballot title for an anti-oil measure up for public vote in March. (Whittier Daily News, August 18, 2015, by Mike Sprague)

Public access improved in California when Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee to observe the California Public Records Act and the Brown Act. The committee makes key decisions on seismic retrofits for California’s toll bridges. (Pleasanton Weekly, August 15, 2015, by Jeremy Walsh)