Executive Order Relaxes Brown Act Requirements Further

Hanson Bridgett LLP

Hanson Bridgett LLP

On March 17, 2020, Governor Newson issued Executive Order N-29-20 ("Executive Order") in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This order supersedes Executive Order N-25-20, which was issued on March 12, and expressly waives all requirements in the Brown Act and Bagley-Keene Act that require a physical presence of Board members, staff or the public as a condition of holding and participating in a local agency governing body or state commission public meeting.

The March 12 order, effective during the period of social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, suspended portions of the Brown Act and Bagley-Keene Act that restricted the ability of local legislative bodies to hold public meetings by telephone conference. That order allowed legislative bodies to hold meetings in which the members participated from remote locations but required that the body provide a physical location at which the public could observe the meeting and provide comments to the body. Given the numerous recent State and local orders restricting public gatherings and requiring social distancing, the new Executive Order eliminates the requirement for a physical meeting place, as described below.

Paragraph 3 of the Executive Order provides that, while local legislative bodies must satisfy "any requirement that the body allow members of the public to attend the meeting and offer public comment," they need not provide a physical location for the public to observe the meeting and offer public comment. This means that the legislative body may conduct a meeting entirely using telephonic or electronic means for Board members, staff and members of the public. However, if an agency chooses this option, it must also:

  • implement a procedure for receiving and swiftly resolving requests for reasonable modification or accommodation for individuals with disabilities, consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and resolving any doubt in favor of accessibility; and
  • advertise that procedure each time notice is given of the means by which members of the public may observe the meeting and offer public comment.

The Executive Order also requires that the agency include information regarding the means by which members of the public may observe the meeting and offer public comment in all notices and agendas that are circulated and/or posted, such as the teleconference number and/or internet link for the audio/video conference technology.

Sample language (linked below) can be customized for and included on your local agency governing body meeting agenda to inform the public about a meeting that will be conducted entirely through telephonic or electronic means. While the Executive Order further assists local agencies in conducting meetings during the pandemic, it also prioritizes the public's right to know about the activities of its government entities and its right to address its representatives. Also, agencies should make their best efforts to identify and resolve any issues regarding reasonable modifications or accommodations for individuals with disabilities to permit them to participate in the meeting.

Download Model Language Template

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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