WHY IS THE BROWN ACT IMPORTANT?
“In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.”
~ Brown Act Declaration of Intent
BROWN ACT ADVOCATE
Since 2013, we’ve been highlighting possible Brown Act violations in California. We take tips and leads from news/rss feeds, constituents, government contractors as well as public officials and we bring you only verified violation possibilities backed by fact-based evidence, background and historical trend.
My approach is a little different. Using facts and evidence, I try to come up with data models and/or intel that will further support said claims. At the end, it is up to you, the constituent, to look at all the evidence that has been laid out and come to your own conclusion.
WHAT IS THE BROWN ACT?
The Ralph M. Brown Act, located at California Government Code 54950 et seq., is an act of the California State Legislature, authored by Assemblymember Ralph M. Brown and passed in 1953, that guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies.
The Brown Act, originally a 686 word statute that has grown substantially over the years, was enacted in response to mounting public concerns over informal, undisclosed meetings held by local elected officials. City councils, county boards, and other local government bodies were avoiding public scrutiny by holding secret “workshops” and “study sessions.” The Brown Act solely applies to California city and county government agencies, boards, and councils. The Act has been interpreted to apply to email communication as well, leading to restrictions on the number of parties that can be copied on electronic messages. The comparable Bagley-Keene Act mandates open meetings for State government agencies.
Read more about the Brown Act and it’s statutes by clicking the button below.
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After publicly releasing the results of an investigation into alleged misconduct by Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill, members of the City Council have asked him to relinquish his seat on the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District’s board of directors.
The council voted 3-2 to request that Hill voluntarily give up his position as one of three members of the sanitation district’s board and appoint Arroyo Grande Mayor Pro Tem Tim Brown to serve in his place. Hill and Brown voted against the recommendation at the council’s Sept. 12 meeting. Councilmembers Caren Ray, Kristen Barneich, and Barbara Harmon voted in favor of it.
A Superior Court judge has ruled that the Palos Verdes Peninsula school board twice violated California’s open meetings law in 2016 as it was putting an end to an agreement to install solar panels in district schools.
Judge William Fahey, in a tentative ruling Sept. 5 that likely will stand, sided with a group of residents who sued the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District Board of Education for alleged violations of the Brown Act.
The Los Angeles Superior Court judge admonished the board for violating the law, but stopped short of requiring district leaders to alter how they run public meetings.
Lawsuits filed against Kern County and Bakersfield officials regarding possible Brown Act violation re: anti-PACE votes
News & Investigation
Checks and Balances Project (C&BP), a national investigative watchdog blog, today filed a pair of lawsuits against Bakersfield-area politicians to get to the bottom of their dealings with Realtor lobbyists to kill a popular home improvement financing program.
On July 11, 2017, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted to shut down local residents’ right to use the Property Assessed Clean Energy (“PACE”) program to finance energy efficiency improvements to their homes. The Bakersfield City Council did the same eight days later.
The C&BP lawsuits follow the revelation that an influential Realtor lobbyist bragged that she had secured the votes of local elected officials who “are willing to lead the charge on a moratorium of local PACE financing and commit the necessary votes, but are asking for political cover.”
C&BP’s First Amendment attorney, Karl Olson, has called the admission a “smoking gun.”
An investigation into accusations that Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill shared closed session information in violation of the Brown Act determined the accusation was unfounded. However, the report did find that Hill was involved in personnel matters and shared an email from the district’s legal counsel about the personnel issue.
For the past few years, officials with the city of Arroyo Grande and the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District have been bitterly divided by those who support former sanitation district administrator John Wallace and those who wanted Wallace investigated for conflicts of interest. An investigation into the allegations of conflict of interest resulted in the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney filing three felony and two misdemeanor counts against Wallace.
The controversy surrounding Hill began on Jan. 24, when Arroyo Grande resident Patty Welsh spoke at a city council meeting.
The lawsuits are based on a settlement of various lawsuits from the Save San Onofre Coalition and multiple environmental agencies, which was forged in November 2016. The agreement established an “avoidance area” that ensures no toll road could be built through the San Mateo Watershed and Trestles south of San Clemente.
“…The Settlement Agreement was plainly used as subterfuge by the TCA for various non-litigation oriented policy decisions, such as the designation of a several square-mile ‘avoidance area’ concerning any and all conceivable toll road alignments,” stated a letter from Dan Bane, the lead attorney for The Reserve’s lawsuit. “Such ploys are illegal as a matter of law under the Brown Act.”
The lawsuits also mentions a protective agreement between CalTrans and the TCA, which litigants are asking the court to declare illegal. The Orange County Board of Supervisors, the California Department of Transportation and the TCA’s Board of Directors are also being sued by the city.
News & Investigation
“The Bakersfield Association of Realtors went further and asked local officials (Kern County and Bakersfield) to kill their programs. The effort drew allegations from a clean-energy-backed group that the Realtors engaged in improper lobbying.
An attorney for the group, the Checks and Balances Project, said he suspects the Kern County Board of Supervisors violated the state’s open-meeting law, the Brown Act, when it voted last week to kill its PACE program in unincorporated areas.
The attorney, Karl Olson, said he believes the supervisors did so by meeting with the Realtors privately before the vote and agreeing to vote no. As evidence, Olson cited a grant application that the Bakersfield Realtor group wrote to the national Realtors organization seeking funds to fight PACE.
“We have held preliminary meetings with local elected officials that are willing to lead the charge on a moratorium of local PACE financing and commit the necessary votes, but are asking for political cover via a grassroots mobilization, media and arguments,” Kim Schaefer, the government affairs director for the Bakersfield Association of Realtors, wrote last year.”
Checks and Balances Project Demands Kern County Board of Supervisors Cure and Correct anti-PACE Program Vote
News & Investigation
“Checks and Balances Project (C&BP), an investigative watchdog blog, yesterday demanded answers to possible illegal contact by members of the Kern County Board of Supervisors with the realtor’s lobby before the Board killed a popular program that homeowners use to finance energy efficiency, renewable energy and seismic improvements.
On July 11, the Board banned homeowners from using the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. C&BP’s action comes a day before a scheduled July 19 vote of the Bakersfield, CA City Council to determine PACE’s future within city limits.
However, an internal document written by Bakersfield Association of Realtors‘ Government Affairs Director Kim Schaefer provides evidence that the Realtors worked behind the scenes months ago to secure the votes of local lawmakers to kill the homeowners’ program, which violates the Ralph M. Brown Act, California’s open meetings law.”
Bakersfield Association of Realtors Grant Application
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Bakersfield Association of Realtors Grant Application
Please click on the button below to see the grant application.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California launched a lawsuit this week against the Madera County Board of Supervisors for violating the state’s public meetings law, the Ralph M. Brown Act.
Supervisors allegedly changed the jail’s relationship with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in a private meeting session they claimed was a personnel evaluation of the county’s chief of corrections, Manuel Perez.
The county denies the allegation.
A March 30th press release from the office of Madera County District Attorney David Linn claimed the March 7th session involved Perez being told by supervisors to henceforth “fully comply with all ICE requests” before releasing felons lacking legal permission to live in the U.S. It also said they directed the county counsel’s office to “expedite their actions.”
“A showdown over control of the health care plan for nearly 800,000 disabled, elderly and low-income Orange County residents intensified Tuesday, with county supervisors expanding their power at CalOptima and state legislators moving to block that effort.
On one side are three county supervisors – Andrew Do, Michelle Steel, and Shawn Nelson – who approved a last-minute proposal Tuesday to add all five supervisors to the CalOptima governing board instead of the current two supervisors.”
“Kern County supervisors voted Tuesday to terminate the Property Assessed Clean Energy program in unincorporated Kern County. Local contractors and companies that administer the clean energy improvement financing program questioned whether supervisors had promised local realtors that they would kill PACE months before the issue ever came to a public vote.
Jim Whittington, of Whittington Solar in Bakersfield, asked why a representative of the Bakersfield Association of Realtors wrote in a December 2016 grant application for funds to fight PACE that she had met with local elected officials who were willing to “commit the votes” needed to end PACE here.”