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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.

A&A: Do Other Cities Have Sunshine Ordinance Task Forces as San Francisco Does?

Q: Are there other task forces like the San Francisco Sunshine Task Force in other jurisdictions? A: Each municipality’s Sunshine Laws, if they have them, are unique, although they often inspire each other.  If you are facing an access issue in a particular area, it is probably best to determine whether the local government has enacted a Sunshine or Open Government Ordinance first.  Then, determine if there is a Task Force or another special appeals process that the local government follows.  To my knowledge, there are no other task forces in the Bay Area and I have not heard of

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A&A: How Does the Police Bill of Rights Affect Transparency and Policing Reform?

Q: Help me understand the Police Bill of Rights and how these laws impact transparency and constitutional policing reform. A: In 1976, California adopted “the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act,” Govt. Code § 3300-13, which provides peace officers with certain substantive and procedural protections. Perhaps most significantly, the Act establishes limits on how officers may be questioned, investigated, and disciplined. Such laws have been criticized for making it excessively difficult to discipline offices for misconduct. Regardless of one’s position on that issue, the right of public access to law enforcement records is governed by other laws, such

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A&A: How does the Brown Act Apply to ‘Ad Hoc’ Versus ‘Standing’ Committees?

Q: Please explain how the Brown Act applies to “ad hoc” versus “standing” committees of municipal government-appointed commissions. As a threshold matter, California’s Ralph M. Brown Act applies to any committee of a legislative body that is empowered to make decisions, rather than simply advise.  It is only advisory committees that may be exempt from the Brown Act. See Gov. Code section 54952(a)-(b). As to advisory committees, the Brown Act applies to “standing committees,” but not to “ad hoc committees.”   The challenge can come in defining which is which.  Under the Brown Act a “standing committee” is one that has “continuing subject matter jurisdiction, or a meeting

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A&A: How Do I Address Agency’s Failure to Honor Brown Act Meeting Notification Deadlines?

Q: The airport commission in our municipality has only given 25 hours notice of the time and location change for their next meeting. This commission is notorious for posting meeting agendas at the last minute and scheduling meetings that are not convenient for residents to attend. Is the airport commission in violation of the Brown Act since they provided only 25-hour notice to change meeting location and time? A: In general, California’s open meeting law, known as the Brown Act, requires that regular meetings be noticed by posting an agenda for the meeting at least 72 hours in advance. Gov’t Code

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A&A: Is It Legal To Share Public Documents Received From One School District With Another School District?

Q: Is it legal to forward documents obtained in a CPRA request regarding a teacher’s misconduct when previously employed by one school district to the superintendent and board members of the school district where the teacher is currently employed? Also, if a school district won’t reply to my CPRA request sent via email do you recommend sending again by certified mail to the superintendent and a school board member before hiring an attorney to help? A: With regard to your first question, public records obtained under the Public Records Act are just that: public. Thus, you are free to share public records,

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A&A: How Do I Access Decades-Old 911 Audios?

Q: How can I obtain 911 audios/reports from 1993 and 2006? A: The California Public Records Act (CPRA) requires public agencies to disclose public records unless some exemption applies.  Public records 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.” Gov’t Code § 6252(e).  Note that the word “writing” as used in the CPRA does not only mean words on a page, but includes “every other means of recording upon any tangible thing any form of communication or representation, including letters, words, pictures, sounds, or

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