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Asked & Answered

A&A is a searchable database of questions posed by users like you about their rights under open government laws and First Amendment safeguards that have been answered by FAC’s attorneys—all First Amendment and government access specialists at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, LLP, an international law firm with offices in San Francisco.

What Records Or Documents Are Public In A City Purchase Of Private Property?

Q: What records are public when a city purchases private property? Can the public receive the preliminary title report? Or the Escrow Settlement Statement? A: Under the California Public Records Act (“CPRA”), public records — which include “any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics,” Cal. Gov. Code § 6252(e) — are presumed to be open to the public and must be disclosed unless a specific provision of the Act or other law exempts them from disclosure. The CPRA

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A&A: Are There National Security Exemptions Under CPRA?

Q: I am a policy advocate working on a bill that would strengthen the California Public Records Act as it relates to government contracts and tax incentive programs. Recently, we have heard that there are concerns around national security when it comes to this bill. Thus, my question is–are there any existing national security protections built into the CPRA? A: The California Public Records Act (CPRA) contains numerous exemptions to its disclosure provisions. The most relevant to your inquiry is the police investigatory records exemption, which broadly exempts “[r]ecords of complaints to, or investigations conducted by, or records of intelligence

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A&A: Can California Agencies Continue to Hold Meetings Remotely After the State Reopens?

Q: I asked a water agency in California if it planned to continue holding meetings online after the state reopens this month, and it said that would not be legal under the Brown Act. Is that true?  A: The agency’s response that making public participation in agency meetings available online and through Zoom is “currently not legal under the Brown Act” is incorrect.   The agency does acknowledge that online meetings would not comply with the Brown Act “but for the emergency order,” presumably referring to Executive Order N-29-20, attached.  The order states, in relevant part, that all requirements in the

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A&A: How Can I Access Florida Police Body-Camera Videos?

Q: Can you please guide me on how to get police body-worn camera videos from a Florida law enforcement agency that have not been provided in response to a freedom of information act. Nor were they included in discovery for a criminal case. I believe there is damning evidence on the video of police misconduct, obstruction of justice, malicious prosecution et cetera. What are my options for obtaining video being withheld? Can I hire an attorney to subpoena the video? A: Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources through this service to provide you with an in-depth analysis of Florida’s Public

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A&A: Is holding a public meeting inside a gated community a violation of California’s Brown Act?

Q: A California city is holding city council meetings with the Property Owners Association (POA) in a POA building inside a gated community. The POA claims they will allow public access. However, the public would have to drive into the community and be stopped and questioned by a private POA security guard at the gates. Vehicle registration and a valid driver’s license are usually required. Is this a possible violation of the Brown Act?  A: The Brown Act specifically provides that members of the public do not have to sign in or provide personal information to attend a meeting of

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A&A: The Mayor Interrupted Me During Public Comment Period of a City Council Meeting. What Can I Do?

Q: I was speaking during the public comment portion of a city council meeting on the topic of the California Fair Political Practices Commission Form 460. The Mayor stopped me three times during my three minutes of public comment and I repeatedly said that I was within my three minutes. I urged the city attorney determine whether the mayor was violating the California Brown Act and the 1st Amendment. I was ignored and felt like my 1st amendment freedom of speech had been violated. Please advise. A: Unfortunately, we cannot provide individual representation through this hotline. If you seek representation, we

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