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Government Information, The Brown Act

The San Simeon Community Services District, while quite small, is, in fact a “public agency,”  the agency is still required to follow the requirements of the The Ralph M. Brown Act (Government Code sections 54950-54963).  

The Brown Act guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies.  

54954.3    Ch. III  Ch. IV  & V  Public may comment on agenda items before or during consideration (emphasis added) by legislative body. Time must be set aside for public to comment on any other matters under the body’s jurisdiction. (Typically any public comment is allowed three minutes.)

As the courts have stated, the purpose of the Brown Act is to facilitate public participation in local government decisions and to curb misuse of the democratic process by secret legislation by public bodies. The Act has been interpreted to mean that all of the deliberative processes by legislative bodies, including discussion, debate and the acquisition of information, be open and available for public scrutiny

Before or during consideration of EACH (emphasis added) agenda item, the public must be given an opportunity to comment on the item. (§ 54954.3(a).) With respect to any item which is already on the agenda, or in connection with any item which the body will consider pursuant to the exceptions contained in section 54954.2(b), the public must be given the opportunity to comment before or during the legislative body’s consideration of the item. (§ 54954.3(a).) The public testimony requirement appears to apply to closed sessions as well as open meetings, but see section 11125.7(d) of the Bagley-Keene Act, concerning state bodies, which was added in 1993 to expressly provide otherwise. Accordingly, the State Attorney General’s office believes that it would be prudent for legislative bodies to also afford the public an opportunity to comment on closed-session items prior to the body’s adjournment into closed session. The only exception to the public testimony requirement is where a committee comprised solely of members of the legislative body has previously considered the item at a public meeting in which all members of the public were afforded the opportunity to comment on the item before or during the committee’s consideration of it, so long as the item has not substantially changed since the committee’s hearing. (§ 54954.3(a).)

When a member of the public testifies before a legislative body, the body may not prohibit the individual from criticizing the policies, procedures, programs or services of the agency or the acts or omissions of the legislative body. (§ 54954.3(c).) As such, members of the public have broad constitutional rights to comment on any subject relating to the business of the governmental body.