(Updated from an earlier version with an incorrect headline. The League of California Cities is congratulating cities for continuing the Brown Act, not urging they do so.)
At its meeting in Manhattan Beach last week, the board of directors of the League of California Cities adopted a resolution congratulating cities for their continued faithful compliance with the requirements of the Ralph M. Brown Act even though the Legislature has suspended several of its provisions for three years. The League board in its resolution also calls on the Legislature to comply with similar transparency requirements, including publishing all agendas and legislation no less than 72 hours before proposed action is taken. The board’s action follows a review of the suspension by the League’s Brown Act Committee, which comprises eight of the state’s leading legal experts on the statute.
AB 1464, which was enacted on June 27, contains a schedule of mandates that are suspended during FY 2012-13. SB 1006, which was also enacted on June 27, extended the suspensions through FY 2014-15, for a total of three years. Suspended provisions of the Brown Act include:
- Preparation and posting at least 72 hours before a regular meeting of an agenda that contains a brief general description of each item of business to be transacted or discussed at the meeting. (See Gov. Code § 54954.2(a).)
- Inclusion on the agenda of a brief general description of all items to be discussed in closed session. (See Gov. Code § 54954.2(a).)
- Disclosure of each item to be discussed in closed session in an open meeting, prior to any closed session. (See Gov. Code § 54957.7 (a).)
- Report in open session prior to adjournment on the actions and votes taken in closed session regarding certain subject matters. (See Gov. Code §§ 54957.1(a)(l)-(4), (6); 54957.7 (b).)
- Provide copies to the public of certain closed session documents. (See Gov. Code § 54957.1 (b)-(c).)
The League has long been a strong advocate for open government and transparency. In 1953, collaborating with the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the League worked to pass the Brown Act, the state’s local government open meeting law. At that time, many city charters already required open city meetings accessible to the public. The Brown Act simply extended that requirement to thousands of local agencies including many special districts, school districts and others that had not already adopted similar policies. The League’s publication, Open and Public IV (Revised 2010), is seen as the definitive resource on the Brown Act throughout the state.
“The cities of California are committed to open and transparent government. It’s our duty as elected officials to ensure that the people have access to the workings of their local government and business being conducted on their behalf. It’s enshrined in the California State Constitution that the people’s business be conducted in a way that is open,” said League President and Mountain View Mayor Mike Kasperzak after the board vote.
League Executive Director Chris McKenzie said: “League leaders also call on the Legislature to adopt these same important transparency provisions to post agendas 72 hours in advance of a public meeting and also provide at least 72 hours between the time a bill is in print and when it is voted on. Transparency is the foundation for public confidence in every level of government — local, state and federal.”
The Legislature’s action this session is not unprecedented. These same Brown Act requirements were suspended in 1990, at which time most cities reported they would continue to comply with all requirements of the Brown Act regardless of the suspension.
For more information about the Brown Act and this resolution, please visit www.cacities.org/opengovernment.