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Fundamentals of theBrown Act
Student Governing BodiesPresented by the Office of General CounselApril 2010
Purpose
“...the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, board and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly. The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”Government Code section 54950
Principle
“All meetings of the legislative body of a local agency shall be open and public, and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting of the legislative body of a local agency, except as otherwise provided...”Government Code section 54953(a)
“Meeting,” defined
“...any congregation of a majority of the members of the legislative body at the same time and place to hear, discuss or deliberate, or take action upon any item that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body or the local agency to which it pertains.”Government Code section 54952.2(a)

“A majority of the members of a legislative body shall not, outside a meeting, use a series of communications of any kind, directly or through intermediaries, to discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item of business that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body.”Government Code section 54952.2(b)
Prohibition on discussions outside of a meeting
“Action to be taken,” defined:
A collective decision made by a majority of the members of a legislative body;A collective commitment or promise by a majority of the members of a legislative body to make a positive or negative decision; orAn actual vote by a majority of the Board members.Government Code section 54952.6
Not a meeting:
Individual contacts;As long as there are no discussions amongst Board members other than the scheduled program:Attendance at a public conference;Attendance at an open and public meeting to address a topic of community concern;Attendance at an open and noticed meeting of another local agency;Ceremonial occasions;Attendance at an open and noticed meeting of a standing committee, so long as Board members who are not members of the committee attend only as observersGovernment Code section 54952.2(c)
Teleconferencing
Each location shall be identified in the notice and agenda of the meeting;Each teleconference location shall be accessible to the public;The agenda shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to address the legislative body directly;Agendas must be posted at all teleconference locations; andTeleconference meetings must be conducted in a manner that protects the statutory and constitutional rights of the parties or the public.Government Code section 54953
Meetings must be within boundaries except:
To meet with federal or state officials when a local meeting would be impractical and solely to discuss a legislative or regulatory issue;To interview members of the public in another district regarding a potential superintendent;To interview a potential employee from another district;To attend a conference on nonadversarial collective bargaining techniques.Also:To comply with a court order or attend legal proceedings;To inspect property which cannot be conveniently brought within the District and for discussions solely related to that property;To attend multi-agency meetings;To meet in or nearby a facility owned by the District to discuss that facility.Government Code section 54954
Special meetings
A special meeting may only be called by:the President of the Board, ora majority of the Board in writing;Written notice must be delivered at least 24 hours before the time of the special meeting to:each Board member, andlocal newspapers or radio and television stations, if requested by them;The agenda of a special meeting must be posted at least 24 hours in advance, and:list the time and place of the special meeting, andthe business to be transacted or discussed.Government Code section 54956
Emergency meetings
Emergency meetings may be called on less than 24 hours notice when, as determined by a majority of the Board, there is an:“emergency,” such as a work stoppage, crippling activity or other activity which severely impairs public health, safety or both; or“dire emergency,” such as a crippling disaster, mass destruction, terrorist act, or threatened terrorist activity that poses immediate and significant peril.Government Code section 54956.5
Notice of regular meetings
Agendas must:Be posted 72 hours in advance in a location freely accessible to the public;Contain a brief description of each item of business (generally not needing to exceed 20 words); andSpecify the time and location of the meeting.Government Code section 54954.2(a)
A Board member may:
Briefly respond to statements or questions by those exercising public testimony rights;Ask a question of clarification;Make a brief announcement;Make a brief report on his or her own activities;Provide a reference to staff or other resources for factual information;Request staff to report back at a subsequent meeting;Take action to direct staff to place a matter on a future agenda.Government Code section 54954.2(b)
No action or discussion may be taken on items not posted unless:
Two-thirds of the Board, or if less than two-thirds, all present, determine:There is a need to take immediate action, andThe need for action came to the attention of the District subsequent to the agenda being posted;An item has been continued from a Board meeting not more than five days before; orA majority of the Board determines an “emergency situation” exists, as defined by Government Code 54956.5.Government Code sections 54954.2(b), 54956.5
Closed sessions are only permitted for:
the LACCD Board of Trustees’:consideration of public employee appointment, employment, evaluation, discipline or release;consideration of student discipline (not applicable to disputes between student government board members);direction for collective bargaining;conference with counsel on existing or potential litigation;direction to a real property negotiator;A threat to public services or facilities; orA determination whether there is a closed session item.There may not be a closed session during an emergency meeting.
Specific charges or complaints against employees may be discussed in closed session when:
There has been 24 hours written notice to the employee; andThe employee has had the opportunity to have the complaints heard in public session.Government Code section 54957
Reporting Out
Certain matters must be reported out after closed session
Confidentiality of closed sessions
“The board (or individual members) cannot claim to have a basis for holding a closed session while at the same time revealing information received at that meeting…”80 Ops. Atty.Gen. 49
Public right of access
Every special and regular meeting shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the legislative body on an item of interest to the public, before or during the legislative body’s consideration of the item.The Board may not prohibit public criticism of the policies, procedures, programs or services of the District, or of the acts or omission of the Board.The Board may not restrain speech by prohibiting defamatory statements against employees.Government Code section 54954.3;Baca v. Moreno Valley
Public right of access,continued
Members of the public shall not be required to sign in or provide other information in order to attend a public meeting.Any sign-in sheets must indicate they are voluntary.Anyone can video tape, record, or broadcast, unless the recording or broadcast cannot be accomplished without noise, illumination, or obstruction of view that would be a persistent disruption of the proceedings.Government Code section 54943.5, 54953.6
Public right to inspect documents
Writings given to a majority of the Board regarding a public session item and not exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act shall be made available upon request without delay.Public records distributed during a public meeting shall be made available for public inspection at the meeting if prepared by the District or a Board member.Writings distributed during a public meeting shall be made available after the meeting for public inspection if prepared by some other person.Government Code section 54957.5
Public right to receive agendas
Any person may request, on an ongoing basis, a copy of the agenda, and all documents in an agenda packet, be mailed to him/her.A request for mailed agendas is valid for the calendar year in which it was filed.The requester can be charged a fee for the copies, not to exceed the actual cost.Government Code section 54954.1
Disruption of proceedings?
Upon a majority vote of the Board, an individual who creates a persistent disruption to proceedings may be removed.Student code of conduct still applies to the students at ASO meetings; however, should not discipline on the basis of content of speech during a meeting
Consequences of violations
Board members who attend a meeting where the member “intends to deprive the public of information to which the member knows of has reason to know the public is entitled” may be convicted of a misdemeanorup to $1000 fine and/or up to one year in jail;A court can order the taping of closed sessions;Actions may be voided;Injunctions;Reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs may be awarded.Government Code sections 54960-54960.5

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BrownAct_04 16 10