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.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

What Municipal (Local City and Town) Offices are Up for Election in San Bernardino County in November 6, 2012?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

In short, it is an election year for everyone except the City of San Bernardino.  Many local cities consolidate their election to either the Presidential election and the Congressional Midterm Elections, because it costs less.

Starting with the High Desert, the City of Adelanto is electing two Council Members; Apple Valley, two Town Council Members; Barstow is electing the Mayor, the City Clerk, City Treasurer, and two City Council Members, Hesperia, two Council Members, Needles is electing two Council Members and the Mayor, Twentynine Palms is electing two Council Members. Rounding out the High Desert is Victorville, electing three Council Members, and Yucca Valley electing two Town Council Members.
In the San Bernardino Mountains, the City of Big Bear Lake is electing two City Council Members

In the Southwest of San Bernardino County, Chino is electing two City Council Members, and Chino Hills, the same number.

In the East-end of San Bernardino, the City of Colton is electing City Council Members in two districts, 3 and 5; the City Clerk and City Treasurer, and the Blue Mountain City, Grand Terrace, is electing three Council Members.  Fontana, which either is the western part of the East Valley, or the Western part of the West-end, is electing two City Council members.  Highland is electing two Council Members, the adjoining City of Redlands has two Council Member seats up for election, and City Clerk and City Treasurer.  Rialto has a mayoral election, City Clerk, City Treasurer, and two Council Member seats.  Lastly, Yucaipa is electing three Council Members.

In the West-end, Montclair is electing two Council Members; Ontario is electing Mayor, City Clerk, City Treasurer, and two Council Members; Rancho Cucamonga, land of Victoria Gardens, is electing its City Clerk, City Treasurer, and two Council Members; Upland, is electing one Council Member, the Mayor and Treasurer.

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.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

City Attorneys of San Bernardino County Cities and Towns

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

People are searching the Internet for a definitive list of City Attorneys in San Bernardino County and the Inland Empire.   Here is the information, which is current as of today (2/1/2012)  to the best of my knowledge.  Please note that I am not the City Attorney nor the Assistant City Attorney for any of these cities.

City of Adelanto:

 

Todd Litfin

Rutan & Tucker LLP

611 Anton Blvd. #1400

Costa Mesa, CA  92626

 

Town of Apple Valley:

 

John E. Brown

Best Best & Krieger LLP

3500 Porsche Way, Suite 200

Ontario, CA 91764

 

City of Barstow:

 

Teresa Highsmith (Interim City Attorney)

Colantuono & Levin

300 S. Grand Ave. Ste 2700

Los Angeles CA 90071

 

City of Big Bear Lake:

 

Stephen Dietsch

Best Best & Krieger LLP

3500 Porsche Way, Suite 200

Ontario CA 91764

 

City of Chino:

 

Jimmy L. Gutierrez

12616 Central Ave
Chino, CA 91710

 

City of Chino Hills:

 

Mark D. Hensley

Jenkins & Hogin LLP
Manhattan Towers
1230 Rosecrans Ave #110
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

 

City of Colton:

 

Dean Derleth

Best Best & Krieger LLP
300 S Grand Ave 25th FL
Los Angeles, CA 90071

 

City of Fontana:

 

Clark Alsop

Best Best & Krieger LLP

3500 Porsche Way, Suite 200

Ontario, CA 91764

 

City of Grand Terrace:

 

Richard L. Adams, II

Jones & Mayer

3777 N. Harbor Blvd.

Fullerton CA 92835

 

City of Hesperia:

 

Eric Dunn

Aleshire & Wynder LLP
18881 Von Karman Ave #400
Irvine, CA 92612

 

City of Highland:

 

Craig Steele

Richards Watson & Gershon

355 S. Grand Ave., 40th Floor

Los Angeles, CA 90071-3101

 

City of Loma Linda:

 

Richard E.  Holdaway

Robbins & Holdaway
201 W “F” St
Ontario, CA 91762

 

City of Montclair:

 

Diane E. Robbins

Robbins & Holdaway
201 W “F” St
Ontario, CA 91762

 

City of Needles:

 

John Pinkney

Slovak, Baron & Empey LLP
1800 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way
Palm Springs, California 92262

 

City of Ontario:

 

John E. Brown

Best Best & Krieger LLP

3500 Porsche Way, Suite 200

Ontario, CA 91764

 

City of Rancho Cucamonga:

James L. Markman

Richards Watson & Gershon
P O Box 1059
Brea, CA 92822-1059

 

City of Redlands:

Daniel J. McHugh

P.O. Box 3005

Redlands, CA 92373

 

City of Rialto:

Jimmy L. Gutierrez

12616 Central Ave
Chino, CA 91710

 

City of San Bernardino:

James F. Penman

300 North D Street

Sixth Floor

San Bernardino, CA 92418

 

City of Twentynine Palms:

Patrick Munoz

Rutan & Tucker

P.O. Box 1950

Costa Mesa, CA 92628-9990

 

City of Upland:

William P. Curley III

Richards Watson & Gershon
P O Box 1059
Brea, CA 92822-1059

 

City of Victorville:

Andre de Bortnowsky

Green, de Bortnowsky & Quintanilla

23801 Calabasas Rd. #1015

Calabasas, CA 91302-1595

 

City of Yucaipa:

 

David Snow (Interim City Attorney)

Richards Watson & Gershon

355 S. Grand Ave., 40th Floor

Los Angeles, CA 90071-3101

 

Town of Yucca Valley:

 

Lona Laymon

Aleshire & Wynder LLP
18881 Von Karman Ave #400
Irvine, CA 92612

 

Copyright 2012 Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

How to Read a Riverside County or San Bernardino County Town or City Council Brown Act Agenda Closed Session List

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.  Certain items can be discussed in closed session only if they meet the criteria set by the Brown Act.  I will take an example from the recent agenda of two local agencies, one in Riverside County, and one in San Bernardino County and examine what they tell us.

From the City of Riverside’s April 12, 2011 City Council Meeting, from the City’s website, a portion of the closed session agenda.

“3 P.M.

MAYOR CALLS MEETING TO ORDER

. . .

CLOSED SESSIONS – Time listed is approximate. The City Council/Redevelopment Agency may adjourn to the below listed Closed Sessions at their convenience during this City Council/Redevelopment Agency meeting.

3. City Council – Pursuant to Government Code §54956.9(a) to confer with and/or receive advice from legal counsel concerning Paul Wilkerson, et al. v. City of Riverside, et al., Riverside Superior Court Case No. RIC 484376

4. City Council – Pursuant to Government Code §54956.9(c) to confer with and/or receive advice from legal counsel concerning one case of anticipated litigation”

From this agenda, we see that Closed Session will not start before 3 p.m.  That doesn’t mean it will start at 3 p.m.

The first item on the closed session agenda, is existing litigation.  We don’t know from the closed session agenda item what is being considered.  It could just be a status update, or Council could be approving a settlement offer.  We could go to the Riverside County Superior Court website and see what we can find out about the case.  We find from the Riverside Superior Court Public Access site that this is a personal injury, non-motor vehicle case.   A thirty day (!) jury trial is set for 9/23/2011.  The City is one of many defendants, including what appear to be businesses, including downtown bars.  The Riverside Police Department was erroneously sued.   A Motion for Summary Judgment is set for May 16, 2011.  Perhaps there has been a demand by plaintiff to settle in the shadow of the Motion for Summary Judgment hearing.  You could purchase the pleadings online or go to the courthouse to see the original records if you were curious about the case.

The second closed session agenda gives very little information.  The section of the Brown Act cited reads: “(c) Based on existing facts and circumstances, the legislative
body of the local agency has decided to initiate or is deciding whether to initiate litigation.”  Government Code section 54956.9(c).   This is in substantial compliance with the requirements of the Brown Act in listing this item:which requires ” Initiation of litigation pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 54956.9: (Specify number of potential cases).”  Government Code 54954.5(c).   The idea behind this limited information is that you don’t want to tip off the person or people that the agency wants to sue, just in case they don’t sue, and to keep the element of surprise.

Moving on to San Bernardino County, here is a recent agenda from the City of Chino Hills.  On the Council Agenda of the City of Chino Hills for the April 12, 2011 meeting, item 1:

“1. Conference with Real Property Negotiator, pursuant to Government Code Section 54956.8 – City of Chino Hills and Chino Valley Unified School District relating to the purchase or lease price/terms regarding property known as Assessor Parcel No. 1028-481-02 (Bird Farm Property).”   You can go to the San Bernardino County Tax Collector’s site  amd enter the APN (Assessor’s Parcel Number) and find out information about the property.  The San Bernardino Tax Collector’s site says that the property belongs to the Chino Valley Unified School District and has since 1988.  From the assessor’s parcel map, we see that it is along Bird Farm Road and Rincon Road and is a 17 acre property.  Putting those terms in Google  we find a map and we find that it is Chaparral Elementary School.  Whatever is going on with the City of Chino Hills, it is not apparent what is going on in this closed session (other than the City is trying to purchase or lease the property from Chino Valley Unified School District and the are only going to discuss the amount or the terms of the purchase or lease.   Did this description substantially comply with the Brown Act?  This is what the Brown Act requires:

“CONFERENCE WITH REAL PROPERTY NEGOTIATORS
Property: (Specify street address, or if no street address, the
parcel number or other unique reference, of the real property under
negotiation)
Agency negotiator: (Specify names of negotiators attending the
closed session) (If circumstances necessitate the absence of a
specified negotiator, an agent or designee may participate in place
of the absent negotiator so long as the name of the agent or designee
is announced at an open session held prior to the closed session.)
Negotiating parties: (Specify name of party (not agent))
Under negotiation: (Specify whether instruction to negotiator will
concern price, terms of payment, or both)”  Government Code section 54954.5(b).

I didn’t see the name of the agency negotiator on the agenda.

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.

 

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

California Public Records Act, How and Where to Make a Request in San Bernardino County and Riverside County

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The California Public Records Act is an invaluable tool for individuals, traditional and new media,  public interest groups, non-profits, business entities, and even lawyers and political groups to find out what local government is doing.  This first post has to do with a very brief overview of the Act, and how to make a Public Records Act request.  Private Attorneys especially do not use the Act efficiently, much to the delight of City Attorneys and much to the detriment of their clients.

I have handled Public Records Act Requests on behalf of local agencies, and I have made Public Records Act Requests to local agencies, so I have a good perspective about how the Act is handled on both sides of the counter.  Having an attorney knowledgeable about the California Public Records Act is important if a client is involved in a case against a City, County, or other local government agency.

The Public Records Act is found in the California Government Code.  A Requester can find the California Government Code here.  The version found here is unannotated.  If a Requester wants to see an annotated code, it can be found at most public libraries and law libraries.  The annotated version gives case law and secondary source references.  The Act is codified at Government Code, Title 1 “General”, Division 7 “Miscellaneous,” Chapter 3.5 “Inspection of Public Records”, Article 1, “General Provisions” and Article 2 “Other Exemptions From Disclosure.”   If a Requester is searching manually, the Act is found in Government Code section 6250 et seq.  [“Et seq.” is legal jargon from the Latin “et sequentia” meaning “and following.”  It is shorthand to tell a court, or others, the general location of an some amount of primary or secondary law.]

The California Legislature, in enacting the Act, found and declared  “that access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in” California.  Government Code section 6250.

While, there are generally two rights, to inspect and/or copy public records, this post will focus on how to make the request.

How and When to make a request to a local government agency in San Bernardino County and Riverside County:

The Act requires that records not subject to an exemption are to be made available “upon a request”  Government Code section 6253(b).  The Court of Appeal for the Second District of California found that the “California Public Records Act plainly does not require a written request.”  Los Angeles Times v. Alameda Corridor Transp. Authority (2001) 88 Cal.App. 4th 1381, 1392.

What does this mean, practically?  A Requester can ask the local government agency in person, or over the phone, to inspect or copy records.  However, the practical thing to do is to put it in writing so that there is a record of the request.  Local governments are collections of individuals, and if the individual employed by the government does not understand the request, or does not write the request down correctly, a Requester may not get to inspect the records in a timely fashion.  A Requester’s best practice is to put the Public Record Act request in writing and date it.  A Requester does not have to use a form provided by the local government agency, but sometimes it is easier to use their form.

Where and to whom should the Request be made?  Though the Act does not specify, local government agencies in Riverside and San Bernardino County usually have Departments that are responsible for responding to routine requests, such as for copies of ordinances or minutes.   In an incorporated city or town, the Requester can usually request the documents from the City Clerk, and it should be routed within the City to the right department if it is not the City Clerk .  In cities with in-house City Attorney’s Offices, such as the City of San Bernardino and the City of Riverside, a Requester can request the documents from the City Attorney.  Likewise, it will be routed to the correct department.

However, the best practice is to request from the specific department that has the records.  If the Requester is ling with a specific department, such as Planning or Code Enforcement, the Requester can make the request directly to the department who is likely to handle the request.  If the Requester is asking for records from different departments, the Requester might want to make the request to the City Manager or City Administrator.  A Requester should feel free to ask someone in the particular city, town or county.  Most local government entities understand their responsibilities under the Act, and want to help the public.  Some do not.

A later discussion with examine how to make a reasonably described record request.

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.

 

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708