A Sacramento-based organization launched a petition drive Sunday to amend the California constitution to ensure that municipal meeting agendas continue to be provided to the public.
In June, the state Legislature gave California cities and counties the option of not posting meeting agendas and other reports to save money, for a three-year period. This action suspended a key provision of the Brown Act, which requires California cities, counties, school boards and special districts to conduct their meetings openly.
On Sunday, Californians Aware, a watchdog organization, launched a petition drive to place a proposition on the statewide ballot.
"Even though the law might not hold public officials accountable for no longer posting agendas or providing adequate descriptions of items on them, angry voters would hold them accountable, and political exposure has always been a far more powerful motivator of Brown Act compliance than legal exposure," stated Californians Aware on its website.
The law is in effect through the 2014-15 year.
There is also a bill that would preserve the Brown Act provisions, but it remains in limbo in the Assembly Appropriations Committee after the state Senate passed it.
Leaders in many cities, including those in Cupertino, said last week that they expected their boards to continue to comply with the Brown Act, despite the state not requiring it for three years.
The California League of Cities was expected to issue a statement last week but had urged members not to change compliance.
The League's eight-member Brown Act Committee also concluded that it believed that the legislature's action would suspend the following provisions:
- Preparation and posting at least 72 hours before a regular meeting of an agenda that contains a brief general description of each item of business to be transacted or discussed at the meeting. (See Gov. Code § 54954.2(a).)
- Inclusion on the agenda of a brief general description of all items to be discussed in closed session. (See Gov. Code § 54954.2(a).)
- Disclosure of each item to be discussed in closed session in an open meeting, prior to any closed session. (See Gov. Code § 54957.7 (a).)
- Report in open session prior to adjournment on the actions and votes taken in closed session regarding certain subject matters. (See Gov. Code §§ 54957.1(a)(l)-(4), (6);54957.7 (b).)
- Provide copies to the public of certain closed session documents. (See Gov. Code §54957.1 (b)-(c).)
"We have no intention of changing our practice. We continue to submit our mandated cost claims, but we have not received reimbursement from the state for a very long time…from time to time when there is money they 'catch up a bit on these reimbursements," wrote Polly Bove, superintendent of Fremont Union High School District. "I have no way of gauging the scope of these costs, but I assume that statewide 96 million could be feasible."
The legislature suspended some requirements of the Brown Act in 1990, and most cities said they would continue to comply, the committee memo said.
— Los Altos Patch Editor L.A Chung contributed to this report