The need for transparency, participation in local government and responsibility led to the enactment of the Brown Act in 1953. Prior to the Act, government officials would hold discrete meetings that were non-compliant with the public notice requirements.
The Ralph Brown Act guarantees all members of the public the right to attend and participate in meetings held by the local government bodies. The definition of meeting in the Act is “any congregation of a majority of the members of a legislative body at the same time and place to hear, discuss or deliberate upon any item that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body” (California Legislative Information, 2022). By responding to the informal undisclosed meetings by government officials, the Act mobilized networks that pursue initiatives and public value to create accountability, inclusivity, and social responsibility. The Brown Act is applied solely in California City and local legislatorial bodies to hold leaders responsible for their activities and allow community participation in decision-making.
The Act provisions require that government meetings be undertaken in open meetings, with exception for various limited situations. Legislative bodies subject to the requirements of the Act include local agencies, commissions, committees, and boards. The bodies should have regular meeting schedules, and the agendas of the meetings should be posted to the public 72 hours prior to the meeting (Oakes & Killlingley, 2021).
Noteworthy, private entities legally delegated and mandated by the public agencies should adhere to the provisions of the Brown Act. In the digital era, teleconferencing may be used as an approach to conduct meetings. Retreats and conferences, ceremonial events, individual contact, standing committee, and other legislative bodies are exempt from the Brown Act.
California Legislative Information. (2022). Chapter 9: Meetings. Codes Display Text. Web.
Oakes, A. R., & Killingley, J. (2021). California’s Brown Act: Clearing the Smoke-Filled Room. California Western Law Review, 58(1), 2. Web.