By Eva Spiegel and Amanda Cadelago.
Transparency and open government are the cornerstones of a strong democracy. Public access to information and the decision-making process gives citizens the information and insight needed to foster civic engagement and ensure accountability. The League has long been committed to providing tools and resources that help mayors, council members and city staff work effectively within a framework of openness and transparency to address the needs of their communities.
Open & Public V: A Guide to the Ralph M. Brown Act is one such tool, developed and originally published in 1989 by the League’s City Attorneys’ Department Brown Act Committee. City officials, residents and journalists find this practical guide to be an invaluable resource. The recently updated fifth edition of Open & Public explains the current provisions of California statutes and case law as of April 2016 and includes — for the first time — an annotated copy of the Brown Act. The publication covers:
- Public participation in meetings;
- Informal gatherings;
- Public notice of meetings;
- Agenda requirements;
- Records and recordings;
- The public’s place on the council agenda;
- Labor negotiations; and
- Closed meetings.
Brown Act Committee Chair Michael Jenkins also serves as city attorney for Hermosa Beach, Rolling Hills and West Hollywood. Reflecting on this perennially popular League publication, Jenkins says, “Open & Public is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the requirements of the Brown Act, California’s sunshine law. Though its subject is the law, the publication is oriented specifically for a lay readership to make the requirements of transparent local government easy for everyone to understand and practice.”
Open & Public V: A Guide to the Ralph M. Brown Act can be purchased online at www.cacities.org/publications for $35 per copy or $30 per copy for orders of 15 or more. The price includes tax, shipping and handling.
Another helpful publication, The People’s Business: A Guide to the California Public Records Act, provides comprehensive information about the process of public records requests and how to respond. It addresses in detail the requirements of the California Public Records Act, which is central to conducting government operations in a transparent and open manner. The League offers this and additional resources at www.cacities.org/opengovernment for city officials and others who are interested in learning more about open government and transparency in California.
The Institute for Local Government (ILG), the League’s nonprofit research affiliate, also provides a variety of helpful publications and webinars that address ethics, public trust and transparency. In addition, ILG conducts AB 1234 (Chapter 700, Statutes of 2005) ethics training, in which the law requires elected officials to participate periodically. The ILG ethics and transparency website page covers:
- Promoting personal and organizational ethics;
- Understanding public service ethics laws;
- Ethics education;
- Transparency strategies;
- Ethics tools; and
- A complete archive of the “Everyday Ethics for Local Officials” columns, which appeared in Western City from 2002–14.
Visit www.ca-ilg.org/ethics-transparency for access to ILG’s comprehensive resources.
© 2016 League of California Cities®. All rights reserved. Printed with permission from the December 2016 issue of Western City® magazine, the monthly publication of the League of California Cities®. For related information, visit www.westerncity.com.