BILL APPROVED TO ENSURE LOCAL GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY

Yee’s legislation will help end unlawful closed door meetings and other Brown Act violations

SACRAMENTO – On a 6-3 vote, the Senate Governance and Finance Committee today approved legislation authored by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) to help ensure greater local government transparency.

Unlike the Bagley-Keene Act, as a result of a recent court ruling, the Brown Act does not allow injunctive and declaratory relief for past violations of the state’s open meetings law.  SB 1003 will add language to the current Brown Act to codify injunctive and declaratory relief for past violations.

“SB 1003 ensures the public has the tools necessary to hold public agencies that violate the Brown Act to account,” said Yee. “Absent this bill, some public agencies will continue to violate the public trust without consequence.”

“This is an important tool for the public to enforce the Brown Act and ensures California’s open meeting law does not become toothless,” said Jim Ewert, General Counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

In McKee v. County of Tulare, the Court ruled that there could be no injunctive and declaratory relief for a past violation because the Tulare Board of Supervisors appeared to stop violating the law after the lawsuit was filed. Instead, the petitioners would need to initiate a new lawsuit if the board returned to its previous bad behavior.

The ruling created the potential for an endless loop – violation, followed by corrective behavior once a lawsuit is filed, followed by a violation again – without any real penalty.

“The Brown Act was designed to bring transparency to government, and not to serve as means to play dodge ball to avoid accountability,” said Yee. “SB 1003 will close this loophole and provide sunshine into the actions of our public agencies.”

In addition to the California Newspaper Publishers Association, SB 1003 is supported by Californians Aware, California Teachers Association, First Amendment Coalition, and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

SB 1003 will next be considered by the full Senate.

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Contact: Adam J. Keigwin,
(916) 651-4008