PUBLIC ACCESS TO MEETINGS

 

The Brown Act prohibits public organizations from making decisions about public funds in closed or private meetings except in limited circumstances (e.g. pending litigation or personnel matters).  The Brown Act requires that meetings be publicly noticed, that an agenda setting forth proposed decisions be posted at least 72 hours in advance, that votes on proposed matters be public, that members of the public have an opportunity to comment on agenda items and in general, and that the documents to be discussed also be made available to the public. Per recent decisions, the 72 hour posting requirement may include weekend hours so that a meeting on Monday would be in compliance if the agenda were posted on a Friday at the right hourly time to meet the 72 hour requirement. 

Effective 2014, there must also be a public report on any action taken at a meeting (e.g. minutes).  Discussions about business matters via text and/or other electronic means between a majority or through a series of separate discussions is prohibited.  
Click here for a guide on the Brown Act (League of CA Cities).

In addition to the Brown Act, the CA Education Code also requires that Adult Education Block Grant Consortiums have public meetings.  

  1. MCC Board 
     

  2. Academic Senate
     

  3. Academic Affairs Committee
    (As of 2/17/17, AAC still uses a portal to access Agendas and Minutes despite the Brown Act)

     

  4. Adult Block Grant Consortium

Text, audio and/or video of public comments made will be posted in near future

Below are links to the meeting schedules of various

MiraCosta decision-making bodies subject to the Brown Act.

Violations of the Brown Act: Violations of the Brown Act are governed by Gov't Code § 54960.1. A summary of the law is that before the district attorney or another interested party may commence an action in court, the person raising the violation must demand that the violating party correct any action taken in violation of the Brown Act within 90 days from the date the action was taken (unless taken in open meeting, in which case the demand for correction must be made in 30 days). Agency must take corrective action within 30 days and person alleging violation should file an official complaint within 15 days. Please consult with an attorney for more details. The above information is provided as an informational summary only and not intended as legal advice or as a position on any matter discussed on this website.

What constitutes a misuse of funds? In some instances, expenditures of public funds may amount to a "Misappropriate of Public Funds," under California Penal Code 424 (felony). Misappropriation of funds can be charged against an "officer of the state, or of any county, city, town, or district of this state, and every other person charged with the receipt, safekeeping, transfer, or disbursement of public monies" who:
 

  1. Without authority of law, appropriates public funds without authority to their own use or to the use of another;

  2. Loans, profits from or uses the funds for any purpose not authorized by law;

  3. Keeps false accounts or fraudulently alters, conceals or destroys accounts,

  4. Refuses to pay or transfer public funds as required. 

In June 23, 2016, a California Supreme Court found that a school district superintendent who increased compensation for a contract employee without Board approval was correctly convicted under this statute.  In People v. Hubbard, the California Supreme Court found that if a public official owed a duty to safeguard the funds of the public agency and exerts material control over how the funds are expended, then this person can be prosecuted for the misuse of funds. In Hubbard, the superintendent of the Beverly Hills Unified School District decided to give a Director of Planning and Facilities a $20,000 stipend, and increased her automobile allowance from $150 to $500.  These expenditures normally required approval by the governing board. Because the superintendent "lacked the unilateral authority" to make these allocations, and those allocations were not reflected as approved in the governing board's minutes, the court held that the superintendent could be prosecuted. 

 

PUBLIC ACCESS TO RECORDS

(Intended as a summary only)

 

Under the CA Public Records Act (CPRA) and the CA Constitution (Article 1, § 3(b)(1)), the public has the right to access, inspect and copy public records.  

 

What constitutes public records? Public records are "any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics." Gov. Code § 6252(e).  (See CPRA for list of exemptions). The CA Supreme Court also unanimously defined public records to include texts and emails -- even if on personal accounts -- that communicate about public business. 

 

How is a request made? Requests may be made online, in person, by email, mail, telephone of fax.  Requesting person should include names of people, places, topics or things discussed, period of time or time frame for records, and the office, agency or division that created or maintains the records. The purpose for which the records are being requested does NOT have to be stated.

Time Frame: 

  • Right to inspect: "Public records are open to inspection at all times during the office hours of the state or local agency."  § 6253(a).  

  • Right to get copies: Upon a request for a copy of records, the agency has up to 10 days to notify the person requesting the documents if it has responsive records, when they will be available for inspection, the cost of copies (if applicable), and if any are exempt from inspection. § 6253(c).  Agencies may request an additional 14 days to make these determinations.  (Back to top)
     

Violations of CA Public Records Act:  Please review the Student Press Law Center for more information and a sample complaint. 
 

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