Q: If a County Supervisor stuffs an item back onto the Consent Agenda during a closed-door meeting, do I have a legitimate complaint that can be brought to the Fair Political Practices Commission?
A: The California Fair Political Practices Commission is the state agency tasked with enforcement of California’s Political Reform Act, and primarily concerns itself with the conduct of political campaigns and elections. Your situation is more likely to be covered under the Ralph M. Brown Open Meetings Act, Cal. Gov. Code § 54950 et seq., which generally requires that local legislative bodies transact the public’s business at noticed, open, and public meetings.
The Brown Act allows local legislative bodies to conduct closed sessions to discuss a limited number of topics provided for in the Act, including but not limited to real estate negotiations, evaluations of public employees, and conferences with counsel. See, e.g., Cal. Gov. Code § 54956.7 – 54956.9. Nevertheless, any topic of discussion must be disclosed on an agenda posted at least 72 hours prior to a meeting, including topics to be discussed in closed session. Cal. Gov. Code § 54954.2(a)(1). If the item you mention was not properly agendized, or was not one of the topics permitted to be discussed during closed session, then the Brown Act may have been violated.
More information about the Brown Act, including a list of permissible closed session topics and your options for enforcing the Act as a citizen, can be found at the First Amendment Coalition’s website here.
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.