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Ralph M. Brown Act


The law which guarantees the public's right to attend and participate in meeting of local legislative bodies is officially known as the Ralph M. Brown Act. The Brown Act (California Government Code, Sections 54950-54963), was enacted in 1953 by the California State Legislature in an effort to safeguard the public's ability to obtain access to and participate in local government meetings and deliberations.

The Brown Act, originally a 686 word statute that has grown substantially over the years, was enacted in response to mounting public concerns over informal, undisclosed meetings held by local elected officials. City councils, county boards and other local government bodies were avoiding public scrutiny by holding secret workshops and study sessions. The Brown Act solely applies to California city and county government agencies, boards and councils. The comparable Bagley-Keane Act mandates open meetings for State government agencies.

Amendment to the Brown Act


A recent amendment to the Brown Act, effective July 1, 2008, impacts the wording of board agendas and also impacts how the records, which are reviewed by board members in anticipation of a meeting, are to be made available to the public.

Typically, Council / Board members receive an agenda and written materials to review in advance of a meeting (Agenda Packet). Government Code section 54957.5 clarifies that once the writings or agenda packet are delivered to a majority of the members on the Council / Board, the records, unless specifically protected from disclosure by the Public Records Act, must be made immediately available upon request. If written materials are submitted to the Council / Board after the posting of the agenda, then the agency shall designate a location (and an optional website link) where the public may view the records.

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