When Does the Brown Act Allow A Council or Board To Meet Outside the Jurisdiction?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The Ralph M. Brown Act codified at Government Code section 54950 et seq., California’s open meeting law gives the public the opportunity to know what their elected officials are doing, and requires their meetings to be open and public.

When does the Brown Act allow a Council or Board to meet outside their jurisdiction?

Generally, the Brown Act does not allow legislative bodies to meet outside their jurisdiction “Regular and special meetings of the legislative body shall be held within the boundaries of the territory over which the local agency exercises jurisdiction . . .”  Government Code section 54954(b).

However, there are the exceptions listed in the same section:

(1) Comply with state or federal law or court order, or attend a judicial or administrative proceeding to which the local agency is a party.

(2) Inspect real or personal property which cannot be conveniently brought within the boundaries of the territory over which the local agency exercises jurisdiction provided that the topic of the meeting is limited to items directly related to the real or personal property.
(3) Participate in meetings or discussions of multiagency significance that are outside the boundaries of a local agency’s jurisdiction. However, any meeting or discussion held pursuant to this subdivision shall take place within the jurisdiction of one of the participating local agencies and be noticed by all participating agencies as provided for in this chapter.
(4) Meet in the closest meeting facility if the local agency has no meeting facility within the boundaries of the territory over which the local agency exercises jurisdiction, or at the principal office of the local agency if that office is located outside the territory over which the agency exercises jurisdiction.
(5) Meet outside their immediate jurisdiction with elected or appointed officials of the United States or the State of California when a local meeting would be impractical, solely to discuss a legislative or regulatory issue affecting the local agency and over which the federal or state officials have jurisdiction.
(6) Meet outside their immediate jurisdiction if the meeting takes place in or nearby a facility owned by the agency, provided that the topic of the meeting is limited to items directly related to the facility.
(7) Visit the office of the local agency’s legal counsel for a closed session on pending litigation held pursuant to Section 54956.9, when to do so would reduce legal fees or costs.
There are also special rules for school boards:

(c) Meetings of the governing board of a school district shall be held within the district, except under the circumstances enumerated in subdivision (b), or to do any of the following:

(1) Attend a conference on nonadversarial collective bargaining techniques.
(2) Interview members of the public residing in another district with reference to the trustees’ potential employment of an applicant for the position of the superintendent of the district.
(3) Interview a potential employee from another district.  Government Code section 54954(c).
Also, Joint Powers Authority have special rules.
(d) Meetings of a joint powers authority shall occur within the territory of at least one of its member agencies, or as provided in subdivision (b). However, a joint powers authority which has members throughout the state may meet at any facility in the state which complies with the requirements of Section 54961. Government Code section 54954(d).
Practically, it can be very difficult for a legislative body to meet outside its jurisdiction. For one, politically, it looks like the agency is hiding something.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

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