THE RALPH M. BROWN ACT

California Government Code Sections 54950 et seq, enacted in 1953 by the California State Legislature in an effort to safeguard the public's right to access and participate in government meetings within the State.

Regulates how meetings are run, public notice, no outside meetings, etc.

Can they ask your name and address?

This issue came up during the resistance of the town of Potrero against Blackwater. Some of the residents were not comfortable providing their name and address, because of the threat of retaliation by Blackwater.

The Brown Act states that (1) the public may attend the meeting, and they are not required to sign any attendance roster or pay any fees:
Spectators' Right to Anonymity
54953.3. A member of the public shall not be required, as a condition to attendance at a meeting of a legislative body of a local agency, to register his or her name, to provide other information, to complete a questionnaire, or otherwise to fulfill any condition precedent to his or her attendance.

If an attendance list, register, questionnaire, or other similar document is posted at or near the entrance to the room where the meeting is to be held, or is circulated to the persons present during the meeting, it shall state clearly that the signing, registering, or completion of the document is voluntary, and that all persons may attend the meeting regardless of whether a person signs, registers, or completes the document.

and (2) that the public may address the body regarding agenda items or during public comment:

Spectators' Opportunity to Address the Body
54954.3. (a) Every agenda for regular meetings shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the legislative body on any item of interest to the public, before or during the legislative body's consideration of the item, that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body, provided that no action shall be taken on any item not appearing on the agenda unless the action is otherwise authorized by subdivision (b) of Section 54954.2. However, the agenda need not provide an opportunity for members of the public to address the legislative body on any item that has already been considered by a committee, composed exclusively of members of the legislative body, at a public meeting wherein all interested members of the public were afforded the opportunity to address the committee on the item, before or during the committee's consideration of the item, unless the item has been substantially changed since the committee heard the item, as determined by the legislative body. Every notice for a special meeting shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the legislative body concerning any item that has been described in the notice for the meeting before or during consideration of that item.

(b) The legislative body of a local agency may adopt reasonable regulations to ensure that the intent of subdivision (a) is carried out, including, but not limited to, regulations limiting the total amount of time allocated for public testimony on particular issues and for each individual speaker.

(c) The legislative body of a local agency shall not prohibit public criticism of the policies, procedures, programs, or services of the agency, or of the acts or omissions of the legislative body. Nothing in this subdivision shall confer any privilege or protection for expression beyond that otherwise provided by law.

However, the Brown Act does not explicitly state that a citizen may address the body and also not sign in, although it does seem to be a logical extrapolation. I (Raymond Lutz) asked the State Attorney Generalís office about this question, and Mr. Ted Prim of that office stated that he informally advises that members of the public need not identify themselves or provide their address, but it is suggested that the body may ask them whether they live in the service area of the body in question.

However, that office declined to provide a written opinion unless requested by a governmental official.

I contacted Bob Filner's office (April 4, 2007) to see if I could make progress on getting a written opinion on this matter, and we are now waiting on the Attorney General's office for a response.

--++ Closed Session The provisions of Closed Session exemptions are to be interpreted "narrowly", according to CA Attorney General Opinions.

See:

Summary of articles submitted (Add | All):

Topic attachments
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
Top10_BrownAct.pdfpdf Top10_BrownAct.pdf manage 212.6 K 2014-06-26 - 17:23 Raymond Lutz Top Ten points on Brown Act.
brownact.pdfpdf brownact.pdf manage 161.3 K 2014-06-26 - 17:23 Raymond Lutz Brown Act (complete)
brownact_onepage.pdfpdf brownact_onepage.pdf manage 102.3 K 2014-06-26 - 17:23 Raymond Lutz Brown Act, One Page summary
Topic revision: r9 - 2016-05-16, UnknownUser
 

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