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A&A: Are Community Action Agencies Subject To the Brown Act?

Q: You would think that Community Action Agencies (non-profit 501c3) would be subject to the Brown Act  since they were created under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, are required to have 1/3 of their board to be made up of elected officials, and receive huge amounts of federal and state tax payer monies, etc. But a local newspaper here told us they are not. Can you settle this?

A: A“legislative body” is subject to the Brown Act.  A “legislative body” has been defined as follows:

The governing body of a local agency. Government Code section 54952(a). This term includes bodies such as a board of supervisors, city council, planning commission or directors of a special district.  For example, a school board that governs a local school district is a legislative body, as is the board of a redevelopment agency and the governing board of a county retirement system.

Any “local body created by state or federal law.” Government Code section 54952(a). Included in this definition may be local bodies created by state or federal law for a specific purpose, such as to fight gangs or drugs.“A commission, committee, board or other body of a local agency, whether permanent or temporary, decision-making or advisory, created by charter, ordinance, resolution, or formal
action of a legislative body.” Government Code section 54952(b).

The term “formal action” in the Act means action by the body, as opposed to action by an individual member of the body. Formal action need not be in the form of a formal motion but should indicate an agreement by a majority of the board to create the committee.

For example, a school board’s adoption of a policy calling for the creation of an advisory committee constituted the creation of a committee subject to the Brown Act, even though thesuperintendent appointed members of the committee.

“Standing committees of a legislative body, irrespective of their composition, which have a continuing subject matter jurisdiction, or a meeting schedule fixed by charter, ordinance, resolution or formal action of a legislative body are legislative bodies.”Government Code section 54952(b).

If a Community Action Agency is a local body created by a federal statute, that would seem to bring it within Government Code section 54952(a).

I have produced the text of Government Code section 54952 below.

Government Code section 54952:

As used in this chapter, “legislative body” means:

(a) The governing body of a local agency or any other local body created by state or federal statute.

(b) A commission, committee, board, or other body of a local agency, whether permanent or temporary, decisionmaking or advisory, created
by charter, ordinance, resolution, or formal action of a legislative body. However, advisory committees, composed solely of the members of the legislative body that are less than a quorum of the legislative body are not
legislative bodies, except that standing committees of a legislative body, irrespective of their composition, which have a continuing subject matter jurisdiction, or a meeting schedule fixed by charter, ordinance, resolution, or formal action of a legislative
body are legislative bodies for purposes of this chapter.

(c)(1) A board, commission, committee, or other multimember body that governs a private corporation, limited
liability company, or other entity that either:

(A) Is created by the elected legislative body in order to exercise authority that may lawfully be delegated by the elected governing
body to a private corporation, limited liability company, or other entity.

(B) Receives funds from a local agency and the membership of whose governing body includes a member of the legislative body of the local
agency appointed to that governing body as a full voting member by the legislative body of the local agency.

(2) Notwithstanding subparagraph (B) of paragraph (1), no board, commission, committee, or other multimember body that governs a private
corporation, limited liability company, or other entity that receives funds from a local agency and, as of February 9, 1996, has a member of the legislative body of the local agency
as a full voting member of the governing body of that private corporation, limited liability company, or other entity shall be relieved from the public meeting requirements of this
chapter by virtue of a change in status of the full voting member to a nonvoting member.

(d) The lessee of any hospital the whole or part of which is first leased pursuant to subdivision
(p) of Section 32121 of the Health and Safety Code after January 1, 1994, where the lessee exercises any material authority of a legislative body of a local agency delegated
to it by that legislative body whether the lessee is organized and operated by the local agency or by a delegated authority.

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner 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. No attorney-client relationship has been formed by way of this response.

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