A&A: Brown Act violation involving resignations

Q: During a Community Service District meeting in Sept., the board president read a resignation statement effective Dec. 31, however the statement was never made available to the public. At the end of December meeting, the board president announced that he was rescinding his resignation, but did so without obtaining board approval. Under the Brown Act, does the board have to approve his reinstatement?

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A: The Brown Act serves to facilitate public participation in all phases of local government, and to curb misuse of the democratic process by secret legislation of public bodies.  Bell v. Vista Unified School Dist., 82 Cal. App. 4th 672 (2000).  The president’s reinstatement of himself without Board approval would not violate the Brown Act (pertaining to open meetings), but it might violate the Board’s bylaws.  You may want to request a copy, to determine voting and appointment requirements.

Additionally, the resignation (and any document rescinding it) may be available to you by way of a public records request.  The Public Records Act provides that a public record, which includes “any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics,” Gov’t Code section 6252(e), is presumed to be open to the public and must be disclosed unless a specific provision of the Act or other law exempts them from disclosure.

Although personnel information is generally exempt when a public agency believes a request seeks information pertaining to a public official’s private or controversial information, this exemption was created to protect intimate personal details, not official business judgments.  See Bakersfield City School Dist. v. Superior Court, 118 Cal. App. 4th 1041, 1045 (2004).  You can find more information about how to submit a Public Records Act request, including a sample letter, on the FAC’s website here: Public Records Act Request

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.