1. The Brown Act has long prohibited secret ballots in open session. SB 751 now adds a requirement that the Board publicly report the vote or abstention of each member for all action taken in open session. (Gov. Code, § 54953.)
- School and community college districts will now need to review their Board voting procedures to ensure that they meet this new requirement to track the individual votes of their board members and make those votes public.
2. Make sure that your district provides the chance for comment before closed session. (Gov. Code, § 54954.3.)
- If a district adjourns to closed session before conducting business in open session, don't forget to give the public an opportunity for comment before closed session.
3. Remember the requirements for teleconferenced meetings. (Gov. Code, § 54953.)
- A quorum of the Board must be in the jurisdiction of the district.
- The Board must vote by roll call.
- The district must post the agenda at all teleconference locations.
- The agenda must list all the teleconference locations.
- All locations must be open to the public and accessible.
- The public must be able to comment at each teleconference location.
4. Members of the public have the ability to place items on the Board meeting agenda. (Education Code, §§ 35145.5, 72121.5.)
- These items must directly relate to the District's business.
- The administration may schedule the items.
- We strongly recommend adopting a board policy and administrative procedure to address times when members of the public exercise this right.
5. The Board may meet in closed session to receive legal advice from its counsel on pending or anticipated litigation. (Gov. Code, §54956.9.)
- First and foremost, this means that you must have a lawyer in closed session to provide legal advice, either in person or on the phone. There is no authority to receive this advice in writing.
- Your CEO cannot meet alone with the Board under this exception.
- The agenda must identify the litigation it is discussing.
- If the closed session is to discuss anticipated litigation, then before going into closed session, the Board must announce the facts and circumstances giving rise to the closed session unless doing so would negatively affect the District's ability to serve one of the parties or would negatively affect settlement discussions.
6. The Brown Act applies to Academic Senates. (66 Ops. Atty. Gen. 252 (1983).)
- Generally, the Brown Act applies to governing boards along with committees and commissions of the Board.
- It also applies to any body ‘created by charter, ordinance, resolution, or by any similar formal action of a legislative body." This includes Academic Senates.
- The California Attorney General issued an opinion confirming this point.
These are just a few tips that will help keep your District in compliance with the Brown Act.