A&A: Agency terminates audio recording of meetings without notice

Q: A local agency just reformed and it started to audio record it meetings and make them available to the public. I obtain one for a missed meeting. Then skipped a meeting, relying on the availability of the recording, only to be told afterwards, that the staff person did not record the meeting on direction of one of the members. I would like to see them continue. Brown Act relevancy?

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A:  I’m sorry to hear that one of the local agency’s board members instructed the staff to refrain from recording the open meeting—this does not adhere to the spirit of the Brown Act.

Unfortunately, the Brown Act does not compel the legislative body to record or continue recording open meetings—only to provide such recordings once created.

The Brown Act requires “any person attending an open and public meeting…shall have the right to record the proceedings” and “[a]ny audio…recording of an open and public meeting made for whatever purpose by or at the direction of the local agency shall be subject to inspection pursuant to the California Public Records Act….”  Cal. Gov’t Code § 54953.5(a)-(b).

Therefore, failing to record the meeting does not appear to violate the Brown Act.

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.