Mar232020

Parts of Brown Act suspended

On March 17th, Governor Newsom issued the second of two Executive Orders conditionally suspending certain Brown Act provisions to allow local agencies to hold public meetings "virtually" through teleconferencing, without any physical gathering of people. (The first Executive Order had required agencies to provide at least one physical location from which members of the public could participate in the meeting. The March 17th Order eliminated this requirement.)

Legislative body meetings must still be publicly noticed in accordance the Brown Act, and the agency must provide a means for the public to observe the meeting and provide public comment electronically or telephonically. (For example, livestreaming the meeting and accepting comments by email, similar to a webinar, or allowing the public to dial into the meeting conference call and be "unmuted" during public comment.)  The opportunities for public observation and participation must be included in the meeting notice, and the agency is also required to establish a process for receiving and resolving any requests for reasonable accommodation to allow accessibility to persons with disabilities.  These provisions will remain in effect "during the period in which state or local public health officials have imposed or recommended social distancing measures."

The Executive Order admonishes public agencies to "use sound discretion" in applying these provisions, and counties would be well-advised to defer controversial matters that are not time-critical until normal Brown Act meetings can be resumed.