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Public Meeting Law (the Brown Act) and the Public Records Act

INTENDED AUDIENCE: Public Agency
CATEGORY: Expectations and Ethics in Public Service, Public Agency

The Brown Act

This workbook explores the Ralph M. Brown Act, commonly referred to as the “Brown Act.” The Brown Act was authored by former State Assembly member Ralph M. Brown and passed by the California State Legislature in 1953. The Act is contained in California Government Code section 54950, et seq. It remains as a pivotal piece of legislation and continues to evolve and change.

This workbook serves as an easy-to-understand desktop reference for the Brown Act to assist the user in implementing and complying with the provisions of the Act. Appendix A is the entire text of the Ralph M. Brown Act.

The Public Records Act

The California Public Records Act (“CPRA” or the “Act”) is contained in Government Code section 6250, et. seq. It provides the public with the right to access public records in the possession of public agencies. The general policy of the Act favors disclosure and a refusal to disclose information must be justified by a specific exemption of the Act.

Disclosure of public records is not an absolute right and the Act recognizes two fundamental yet competing interests. On the one hand, the Act seeks to prevent secrecy in government. On the other hand, the Act also seeks to protect the privacy interests that are implicated for certain records. Therefore, as discussed in greater detail below, the Act provides several exemptions to the general policy of disclosure.

The disclosure requirements of the Act serve as minimum standards for a local agency. A local agency may adopt requirements that allow for faster, more efficient or greater access to records than the requirements prescribed by the Act.

Topics Include:

  • Overview of the Brown Act
  • What is Covered by the Brown Act?
    • Public Agencies Covered by the Act
    • Legislative Bodies Covered by the Brown Act
  • What Constitutes a Meeting?
    • Meetings Covered by the Act
    • Serial Meetings
    • Circumstances That are Not Covered by the Act
    • Types of Meetings
  • Notice and Agenda Requirements
    • Regular Meetings
    • Special Meetings
    • Emergency Meetings
    • Special Notice Requirements for Adopting a New Tax or Assessment
  • Conducting the Meeting
    • Location of Meetings
    • Adjournment of Meetings
    • Continuance of Hearings
  • Rights of the Public
    • Public Attendance at Meetings
    • Public Participation by Teleconferencing
    • Public Right to Record Meeting
    • Public Right to Broadcast a Meeting
    • Public Right to Inspect Documents and Recordings
    • Disorderly Conduct of the Public During Meeting
  • Exceptions to the Open Meeting Requirement
    • Pending Litigation
    • Personnel Matters
    • Labor Negotiations
    • Real Property Transactions
    • Security Threats and Public Safety
    • Reviewing License Applications of an Individual with a Criminal Record
    • Health Plans and Trade Secrets
    • Charges or Complaints from Members of the Local Agency Health Plan
    • Joint Powers Agency or Local Agency Self-Insurance Authority Formed for Insurance Pooling Liability
    • Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Law Enforcement Agency
  • Conducting Closed Session Meetings
    • Agenda Descriptions for Closed Session Items
    • Announcement before Closed Sessions
    • Minute Book Record
    • Attendees
    • Public Report of Action Taken
    • No Disclosure of Personal Recollections
    • Disclosure of Confidential Information
  • Remedies for Violation of the Brown Act
    • Preventing Violations of the Act
    • Correcting and Curing an Unlawful Action
    • Prejudice is Necessary to Void Unlawful Action
    • Discovery of Closed Session Tapes
    • Costs and Attorney Fees for Violating the Act
  • The Maddy Act
  • Public Records
    • What Constitutes a Public Record?
    • Types of Public Records
  • Inspection of Public Records
  • Request for Copies
    • Right to Exact Copy of Record
    • Right to Assistance from Agency
    • Agency Response to Request for Records
    • Extension for Response
    • Denial of Request
    • Request and Consideration of Salary History Information
  • Exempt Records
    • Categories of Exempt Records
    • Personnel Files
    • Pending Litigation
    • Records Exempt from Disclosure Pursuant to Federal and/or State Law
    • Catch-All Exemption
    • Waiver of Exemption by Local Agency
  • Disclosure of Electronic Records
    • Records Posted on the agency’s Website
    • Disclosure of Electronic Communications
  • Legal Action to Compel Disclosure of Public Records
    • Determination Process
    • Attorney Fees and Costs
  • Reverse CPRA Actions and Notices
  • District Attorney as the Requesting Party

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