Monday, March 21, 2011

Does the Monday's Emergency RDA Meeting Violate the Brown Act?

One question that is begged by Monday's short-notice RDA meeting is whether the meeting violates the California's 1953 Brown Act, mandating that public agencies conduct their business in a way that is open to public scrutiny. 

The Brown act requires agencies to post meeting agendas at least 72 hours in advance, in a "freely accessible" location, and to describe each item of business – including items discussed in closed sessions – with "enough information to enable members of the general public to determine the general nature of subject matter." Further, public agencies and boards may not discuss, nor take action on, items that aren't on the agenda.

The law allows three exceptions to the agenda requirements: emergencies, a situation requiring immediate action, and items posted on previous agendas. Closed sessions are permitted to discuss personnel matters, pending litigation, real estate negotiation, and labor negotiations. Minutes from closed sessions are exempt from public disclosure rules.

Technically, the meeting and a one-page agenda were posted on the City website Friday, just within the 72 hour limit. But Friday March 18, 2011 was a furlough day -- City offices were closed. However, according to the City attorney, the one page agenda that was posted on Friday does comply with state law. 

"The people, in delegating authority," says the introduction to the Brown Act, "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 administrative panic about the threat of RDA shutdown might lead some to think that Santa Clara's City Council doesn't agree. 

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