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

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