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Group Threatens to Sue School Districts for Brown Act Violations

A non-profit organization, Californians Aware: The Center for Public Forum Rights, recently issued a letter regarding its intent to seek penalties against public agencies (including school districts) for Brown Act violations. Californians Aware has identified four Brown Act violations which it claims arise repeatedly. The organization has announced that it will “commence litigation promptly” if it believes that there is a violation of the Brown Act in the following four areas:

  1. Properly agendizing and announcing closed sessions for anticipated litigation. Californians Aware claims that it will take legal action if agencies fail to announce the “existing facts and circumstances” which have placed the agency on notice of potential litigation. (See Government Code section 54956.9(b)(3)(B)-(E)).
  2. Closed sessions for labor negotiations for unrepresented employees. Californians Aware claims it will take legal action if a public agency utilizes closed sessions to take action on compensation for unrepresented employees and for negotiations between the agencies’ governing bodies and their highest ranking officer. (See Government Code sections 54957 and 54957.6.)
  3. Properly agendizing real property negotiations. Californians Aware cites two issues which will cause it to file suit: 1) if a public agency does not properly describe the address, parcel number or other unique reference of the property; and 2) if a public agency uses a closed session to agree on the “terms of sale” of the property.
  4. Adding items of business to a posted agenda. Californians Aware claims it will take legal action based on two issues: 1) if an agency adds items to a regular meeting agenda less than 72 hours prior to a meeting without making the following showing: (a) there is a need to take immediate action; and (b) the need came to the agency’s attention subsequent to the agenda posting; and 2) if an agency makes additions to a special meeting agenda.

Californians Aware has stated that, “absent an acknowledgment of violation and correction at the next regular meeting or within seven days, whichever occurs sooner,” it will file a legal action to stop the practice it deems prohibited by the Brown Act. While we do not necessarily agree with Californians Aware’s analysis of the requirements of the Brown Act, particularly with regard to agendizing anticipated litigation, you should be aware that this issue has been raised. Now would be an appropriate time to review the process of preparing agendas, and consult with legal counsel to ensure Brown Act compliance. Kingsley Bogard Thompson LLP can assist in this process.

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