A&A: Brown Act Rules About Late Night Meeting

Q: Three nights ago, my city noticed a special meeting 27 hours prior to holding it. The special meeting was scheduled to occur immediately following a regularly scheduled city council meeting. Regular city council meetings rarely end before 10:00 PM. In this case, the regular meeting did not end until 12:23 AM. Lots of controversy that night. The Special meeting was convened a few moments later. Everybody had gone home by then. The Council voted to spend a million dollars on a house. This topic had never been discussed in open session.

My question is, was this meeting legal? My theory is that it did not start until the day after it was scheduled. Further, the city has either a 10:30 or 11:00 PM end of meeting unless vote taken to extend rule. I went home at 11:30 PM. I do not recall that vote being taken. Our council and its counsel are rather sloppy. I will review video when it is posted.

 A: An agency may hold a special meeting but only upon 24-hours advance notice to each local newspaper of general circulation, radio station or television station that has in writing requested notice. The notice must also be posted in a location freely accessible to the public. Government Code section 54956. The notice must specify the time and place of the special meeting and the business to be discussed. Only the business specified for discussion at the special meeting may be addressed. Government Code section 54956.

As for the vote in the special meeting, generally a legislative body cannot take action on any item that is not on the agenda for the meeting. Government Code section 54954.2(a)(2).

There are a couple exceptions to the rule that a legislative body may not take action on an item that is not on the agenda, such as emergencies.

You may also want to double check the city council’s bylaws on the length of city council meetings to determine if the correct procedures were followed.

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. No attorney-client relationship has been formed by way of this response.

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