New law amends Brown Act requirements regarding public inspections of records

Under the Brown Act, if records relating to an agenda item for a regular meeting are distributed to all or to a majority of board members fewer than 72 hours before the meeting, the local educational agency must make those records available for inspection by the public, in person at the same time they are distributed to the board. The LEA must also make them available on its website. (This does not include closed session items or other confidential items, such as those subject to the attorney-client privilege.) Assembly Bill 2647 provides additional requirements related to these records. Each LEA must designate a public office or other location for inspection of such records. In addition, the address of that designated public office or other location must be listed on the agendas for all meetings of the board.

In addition, AB 2647 provides a method for LEAs to make those records available online, rather than in person, but only if the LEA follows specific requirements. Specifically, an LEA need not comply with the requirements above for in-person inspection if it meets all of the following four requirements:

  • An initial staff report or similar document containing an executive summary and the staff recommendation, if any, relating to that agenda item is made available for public inspection at the office or location designated for inspection of such records, as described above.
  • The LEA immediately posts any records covered by this provision on its website in a position and manner that makes it clear that the writing relates to an agenda item for an upcoming meeting.
  • The LEA lists the web address of the website where such records will be posted on all agendas for its meetings.
  • The LEA makes the records available for public inspection, beginning the next regular business hours of the LEA after distribution to board members, at the location designated for inspection of records related to agendas (discussed above), but only if the regular business hours begin at least 24 hours prior to the meeting in question.

This bill arose from the appellate court’s decision in Sierra Watch v. Placer County, analyzed in the  July issue of California School News. In the case, Placer County and a developer reached an agreement related to an environmental impact report for a resort development in Tahoe on a Friday evening. A meeting of the Board of Supervisors was scheduled for the following Tuesday. When the parties reached the agreement, the clerk sent a memorandum prepared by county counsel detailing the new terms of the revised agreement to the governing body members. The clerk also placed the materials in the Placer County clerk’s office for public review. Both actions took place around 5:40 p.m. on Friday evening, after the clerk’s office closed. The Court of Appeal held that the county did not meet the requirements of the Brown Act because the public could not access the records 72 hours before the meeting and at the time they were distributed to the board of supervisors due to the office closure.

This bill provides another option for distribution of the records in question via website, though the requirement to post a staff report requires that the LEA know at least 72 hours in advance that it will need to distribute records within the 72-hour window before the meeting. If LEAs do not comply with the requirements above for posting records online, they may still distribute records to all or to a majority of board members less than 72 hours before a meeting, but they must follow the existing rule and make the records available for in-person inspection in a designated location that is accessible to the public.