The Brown Act Clear as Mud

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The Brown Act Clear as Mud Powered By Docstoc
					                     Spring Plenary 2005


The Brown Act: Clear as
Mud
Mark Lieu, Ohlone College
Jane de Leon, American River College
Angela Echeverri, Los Angeles Mission College
Fola Odebunmi, Cypress College
Lesley Kawaguchi, Santa Monica College
                               Spring Plenary 2005




The Key
  A commitment to openness and access
  to information as opposed to mere
  compliance with the law
                                            Spring Plenary 2005




What does the Brown Act cover?
   The Brown Act applies to the meetings of all
   legislative bodies (GC 54952) which includes:
     The Board of Trustees
     Any subcommittee or task force created by the
     Board with a majority of Board members serving
     on the group
     Any subcommittee or task force created by the
     Board which has a definite, ongoing charge (either
     decision-making or advisory) OR has a regular
     meeting schedule set by the Board, regardless of
     Board membership
                                            Spring Plenary 2005




What does the Brown Act cover?
   A meeting of a legislative body (GC 54952.2)
   occurs whenever a majority of members
   gather to discuss business within their
   charge. A majority can meet in the following
   provided they do not discuss among
   themselves any business within their charge.
     attendance at a conference
     an open meeting of some other group to address
     local issues (even a Board-recognized group under
     the definition of "legislative bodies")
     social gatherings
                                           Spring Plenary 2005




Agendas
    Include time and place
    Mail agenda one week before meeting
    Post agenda 72 hours before meeting.
    Special meetings require 24 hours notice and are
    limited to agenda items.
    Senates do not call emergency meetings (which
    do not require 24 hour notice).
    Allow for public comments before or during
    discussion of agenda items
    Include all action items on the agenda, with a
    brief description.
                                      Spring Plenary 2005




Agendas
    Use resolution format for action items.
    Have a first reading at a meeting before
    action is taken at the subsequent meeting.
                                      Spring Plenary 2005




Meetings
   All meetings are open; closed session
   are for litigation (e.g. the senate is or
   will be sued), personnel matters (e.g.
   senate has the responsibility for
   evaluating a senate employee) or
   negotiating with a bargaining agent
   (the senate does not do this).
   All votes are open; no secret ballots.
                                            Spring Plenary 2005




Meetings
   Action is limited to those items on the
   agenda.
     Exception: action may be taken on a non-
     agenda item, but this requires:
      • that the need for immediate action was
        discovered after the agenda was posted, and
      • a vote of two-thirds of members present if
        more than two-thirds of the total membership
        are present, or a unanimous vote if less than
        two-thirds of the total membership are present.
                                             Spring Plenary 2005




Meetings
   Members may respond to public comments
   but not take action (time limits may be used).
   All items distributed by the Senate before or
   during meetings must be available to the
   public at the meeting (reasonable fees may
   be charged for duplication).
     Exception: items under Title 1 Sections 6253.5,
     6254, or 6254.7.
                                            Spring Plenary 2005




Meetings
    Bring extra copies of documents.
    If others bring items to distribute, offer to send
    copies later to those who request them in writing.
    Be careful what you distribute at meetings-these
    are now public documents.
    Set time limits for discussion, particularly for
    public comments.
    Use the public comments section of the agenda
    for items not on the agenda.
    Keep discussion within the scope of the agenda
    item.
                                Spring Plenary 2005




Bagley-Keene
  The Brown Act governs meeting access
  for local public bodies.
  Bagley-Keene codifies many of the
  same conditions for access to public
  meetings for state agencies.
  Senates are not covered under Bagley-
  Keene since they are not a state
  agency.
                                                Spring Plenary 2005




Scenario One
  Your faculty senate has been struggling with the
  college president’s proposed reorganization plan for
  over six months. Discussions have become
  acrimonious. After six months of frustration, the faculty
  senate feels moved to take a vote of no-confidence on
  the president. Several faculty senators have not yet
  achieved tenure, and they are hesitant to express
  support for a vote of no-confidence in public, and they
  have requested that a secret ballot be used at the
  meeting where the vote will be taken.
                                   Spring Plenary 2005




Scenario One: Discussion
   Under the Brown Act, is it appropriate
   for the faculty senate to conduct the
   vote of no-confidence under a secret
   ballot?
                                        Spring Plenary 2005




Scenario Two
 Faculty are greatly alarmed at student
 accusations against some faculty. This action
 occurs a day before a regularly-scheduled
 faculty senate meeting. At the meeting, several
 faculty insist that the senate must respond
 immediately to the accusations. Some faculty
 request a closed-door session of the senate to
 discuss a coordinated response to the situation.
 Other faculty request that the senate pass an
 emergency motion to show support for the
 targeted faculty.
                                   Spring Plenary 2005




Scenario Two: Discussion
   Two responses of the faculty senate
   have been requested: a closed-door
   session for discussion and the passing
   of an emergency motion. Under the
   Brown Act, is it appropriate for the
   faculty senate to take either of these
   two actions?
                                        Spring Plenary 2005




Scenario Three
 A faculty member accuses the faculty senate’s
 sabbatical leave committee of violation of the
 Brown Act, given that it is an advisory
 committee to the faculty senate, citing the law
 that advisory committees are also subject to
 provisions of the Brown Act. With this
 accusation, the faculty member wants the
 sabbatical review process restarted, with all
 deliberations of the committee open to the
 public.
                                    Spring Plenary 2005




Scenario Three: Discussion
   The court case with Long Beach City
   College’s faculty senate resulted in the
   ruling that the senate is subject to the
   Brown Act. Does it follow, then, that all
   advisory committees to the faculty
   senate are subject to open-meeting
   laws as well?
                                   Spring Plenary 2005




Scenario Four
 The faculty senate holds its meetings on
 Monday afternoons at 3p. Following the
 requirements of the Brown Act, agendas
 for the meetings are distributed by 3p on
 the preceding Friday. Background
 materials provided to senators is made
 available at the meeting itself and not
 included with the agenda.
                                   Spring Plenary 2005




Scenario Four: Discussion
   Does the 72-hour agenda posting
   requirement include weekends? Is the
   faculty senate required to provide all
   attachments with agendas?
                               Spring Plenary 2005




Enforcement
   Demand to cure or correct
   Threat to sue
   Lawsuit


A commitment to openness