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Brown Act

The Brown Act of 1953 (Government Code §§ 54950-54962) governs meeting access for local public bodies.

Meetings under the Brown Act

A meeting is any gathering of a majority of the members of a board to hear, discuss, or deliberate on matters within the agency's or board's subject matter jurisdiction. (§ 54952.2(a))  No vote or action is required for the gathering to be a meeting.  The question about any gathering is whether it serves as a conduit for collective concurrence. Other important points about public meetings include:

  • Must be open and public, and may not be secret;

  • Serial meetings and Hub & Spoke meetings are illegal (§ 54952.2(b)(1)); and

  • If action is taken in violation of open meetings laws, action may be voided. (§ 54953(a).

  The Brown Act does apply

  • To Local agencies, including counties, cities, school and special districts. (§ 54951)

  • To Legislative bodies of each agency--the agency's governing body plus any board, commission, committee, task force or other advisory body created by the agency, whether permanent or temporary. (§ 54952(b))

  • To any standing committee of a board, regardless of the number of members, and having continuing jurisdiction over a particular topic. (§ 54952(b))

   

   The Brown Act does not apply

  • To ad hoc advisory committees consisting of less than a quorum of the covered board (§54952(b)); most non-profit corporations.

  • To all other government agencies. State governmental agencies are covered by the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act of 1967. (Govt. Code §§ 11120-11132)

  • Students and campuses of the California State University are covered by the Gloria Romero Open Meetings Act of 2000. (Govt. Code §§ 89305-89307)

  • Certain gatherings by the board are not covered by the Brown Act as long as the board members do not deliberate on topics within the board’s subject matter jurisdiction.  For example:

    • At a conference open to the public involving issues of general interest to the public. (§ 954952.2(c)(2));

    • At a publicized meeting organized to address community concerns by another organization (§ 954952.2(c)(3));

    • At a noticed meeting of another organization (§ 954952.2(c)(4));

    • At a purely social or ceremonial occasion (§ 954952.2(c)(5)); and

    • At a noticed standing committee meeting provided the non-member board members attend only as observers. (§ 954952.2(c)(6)).

The Brown Act is a state law.  It specifies the minimum that the public expects because the public insists on remaining informed.  The public intends on retaining control over the instruments they have created.  This is a brief summary of general information on the Brown Act.  This does not substitute for research or attorney consultation on any specific situation.  

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