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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: Are Community Action Agencies Subject to the Brown Act?

Q: You would think that Community Action Agencies (nonprofit 501c3) would be subject to the Brown Act since they were created under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, are required to have one-third of their board 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

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A&A: Are Depositions Public Records and Can We Publish Portions Of Them Legally?

Q: We have depositions from a 1994 California case with selected content we would like to use for a report. I understand that California depositions are not a matter of public record, though some other states make depositions a public record.The case was dismissed but never settled. Other than attaching the depositions or portions of the depositions to a court-filed document, is there any other legally accepted strategy to making selected portions of the depositions public for an article of public interest? A: Depositions are not automatically outside the bounds of public access in California—as an example, Cal. Code of

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A&A: Can a California agency deny my records request without providing any citations or reasons?

Q: I am encountering a problem with regards to the California Public Records Act and state parks. I was seeking log sheets, invoices, work orders or receipts regarding a five-year project. I received the log sheets and a map of the work area but nothing more. No explanations or citations of the law were given to explain why those records were not provided to me. I called the state parks and was told those records did not exist. They would not answer any of my CPRA questions or offer any legal advice. I explained that a different agency told me the

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A&A: Can a records request be denied in California over fear of the public being misinformed?

Q: Are there any California Public Records Act cases that allow or disallow the withholding of records under CA Gov. Code Section 6255, based on the danger of the public being misinformed by the disclosure? A: We are unaware of any cases holding that a danger of misleading the public is valid grounds for withholding a record. As you know, the “catch-all” exemption of § 6255 only applies if the agency can demonstrate that “on the facts of the particular case the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.” Cal. Gov.

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A&A: Councilman is rude to speakers making public comments. What is our legal recourse?

Q: Our small town elected a person to the city council who has been so bullying and rude to residents during public comments, in official emails to residents and in phone calls and encounters on the streets that the council was forced to adopt a code of conduct. Under COVID-19, it would be especially difficult to do a recall effort. Do any of us have any legal recourse? The code of conduct is toothless and the digital communications policy only applies to employees not elected officials. A: Unfortunately, your inquiry primarily implicates election laws and the local city council’s own

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A&A: Can a California City Council Cut Public Comment Time with No Notice Before Meeting?

Q: At the last two City Council meetings, the agenda has announced a three-minute time limit per person for public comments. Then, at the start of the meeting, this has been reduced to two minutes. I’ve reviewed (to the best of my ability) relevant case law that allows for deviations from the Brown Act when there is a lengthy agenda, or where the city’s Rules and Procedures outline that speakers can be given “up to” three minutes. But Rules and Regulations simply state that speakers will be given three minutes. So I do not believe this case law is applicable

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