Survival Tips on
Robert's Rules of Order

Brown Act Class

In California our Open Meeting Law is called the Ralph M. Brown Act of 1953.
(Government Code at 54950 et seq.)
[See My notes; My handout]

The people of California do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.

You must comply with the mandates of the Brown Act if your organization is a county, city, whether general law or chartered, town, school district, municipal corporation, district, political subdivision, or any board, commission or agency thereof, or other local public agency.

Test your knowledge of the Brown Act: (Answer 'True' or 'False'. Answers included below.)
  1. Standing committees do not need to comply with the Brown Act because the organization as a whole already does.

  2. An elected board member who has not been sworn in does not need to comply with the Brown Act, yet.

  3. Away from a meeting, as long as a majority of the board members do not discuss board related issues, a few of the board members can meet and chat about any subject.

  4. Away from a meeting, a majority of the board members may discuss any board related issue as long as they do not come to a decision.

  5. The Brown Act authorizes your organization to hold meetings by teleconference.

  6. To comply with the Brown Act, your organization may post its agenda on its website at least 72 hours before the meeting.

  7. A member of the public must sign in at a meeting before he is allowed to speak.

  8. If your organization records its meetings, your organization must share its recordings with the public for a period of 90 days.

  9. A member of the public may video tape a meeting if the board is warned 24 hours before the meeting starts.

  10. Your organization must mail a copy of the agenda to any member of the public that requests it, and this must be done free of charge to the public.

  11. If an item was not placed on the agenda that was posted 72 hours before the meeting, that item cannot be discussed or acted upon at the meeting.

  12. Your organization may have the public address the board on any issue while the issue is being dealt with, but may have the public address the board on any topic not on the meeting's agenda at the end of the meeting.

  13. The First Amendment and the Brown Act protect the public allowing members of the public to express their concerns and complaints freely during a meeting.

  14. The board may not prevent any member of the public from sharing any concern at the board meeting as long as the concern is factual.

  15. Secret ballots are prohibited by the Brown Act.

When a member of the public states that you are out of compliance, you must consult with your attorney.

To pro-actively prevent these complications, you need the services of a parliamentarian experienced in this subject. A two hour session of tutorial, discussion, and comparison with your organizations's practices will assure compliance with the Brown Act.

Please contact me at I am located in Northern California.

(By the way, all 15 comments are problematic, complex, and false, false, false!)

Four Unfortunate Misconceptions Promoted by Members
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