When the Brown Act was first written; social media was not pushing forward the frontiers of how we communicate. So as it became more available and more popular, social media conversations – such as a series of comments on Facebook – could approach or even cross the legal limits of the Brown Act.

So the rules of California’s Open Government Laws take new life to accommodate Facebook or comments on news articles, new dangers linger for local government officials.

From Western City Magazine:

Most members of legislative bodies (including city councils, commissions, boards and committees) soon learn upon taking office that a quorum of their membership may not meet to discuss official business unless the meeting complies with the Brown Act. Often referred to as California’s open meeting law, the Brown Act provides that members of a legislative body may hold a meeting when a majority of them – at the same time and place – “hear, discuss, deliberate or take action on” an item within their subject matter jurisdiction.

To hold a lawful meeting under the Brown Act, a local agency must, among other things, provide public notice about the meeting for a certain time period and ensure that the public can access the meeting. Thus, if a city council (for example) has five members, three of the five may not meet at a restaurant to discuss city business unless the city has posted public notice about the meeting and otherwise complies with the Brown Act.

Read the full article here.

The article was published in the June 2011 issue of Western City Magazine. © 2011 League of California Cities. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the June 2011 issue of Western City magazine, the monthly publication of the League of California Cities. For more information, visit www.westerncity.com.