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A&A: My job has been threatened if I divulge details of closed-door meetings

Q: The state university where I worked has held confidential meetings of a management committee for a program operated under an agreement with the county. There was never an agenda, minutes, notices of meetings or officers. For the past four years. They threatened to fire me if anything at these meetings was divulged, and now they have eliminated my position.

A: It is not clear whether California’s open meeting laws would apply to the situation you describe.  If anything, the Bagley-Keene Act may be applicable, but that statute applies only to “state bodies.”  Gov’t Code § 11121.  Specifically, the Bagley-Keene Act applies if the body is a “state board, or commission, or similar multimember body of the state that is created by statute or required by law to conduct official meetings and every commission created by executive order.”  Id.

In other words, the entity must be a multimember body (e.g., a state board, commission, committee, panel, council), and must be created by statute or required by law to conduct official meetings.  The Bagley-Keene Act is narrower in its application than its local counterpart, the Brown Act, but like the Brown Act, it can be enforced by filing a lawsuit.  However, an action of a state body will not be declared “null and void” if there was “substantial compliance with the Act.”  Gov’t Code § 11130.3(b).

In any event, it sounds like you may be facing issues that go beyond government transparency and would require a specialist in employment law.  You might want to consult with an employment lawyer about your employment concerns.

Bryan Cave LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to First Amendment Coalition 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.

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