Breaking the Brown Act with Brown

los-angeles-county-sealThe Los Angeles Times is reporting the Los Angles County Board of Supervisors may have broken the law with Governor Brown in the room. The law they broke? The Brown Act!

The Ralph M. Brown Act (no relation to Jerry) passed in 1953 to prevent local governments from making decisions in secret. The Act requires local elected officials to consider and decide an issue in a public meeting which the public is made aware of at least 72 hours in advance.

A major component of the Brown Act is that local elected officials cannot discuss an issue with a majority of their colleagues outside of a public meeting. For example, the LA County Board of Supervisors is made up of five Supervisors. To avoid making a decision in secret a Supervisor can only speak to one other Supervisor privately about an issue or their disposition before the public meeting.

When two Supervisors choose to discuss an issue in private they are not allowed to discuss the disposition of another Supervisor. It is considered an attempt to make a majority decision in secret. This prevents using a daisy chain of conversations between Supervisors to pass along messages and subvert the law.

It is important to note this constraint does not apply to the public (yes, your CGA local lobbyists are considered the “public”). This allows CGA local lobbyists the public to speak in private to all elected officials about the disposition of all the other elected officials. The private conversations between CGA local lobbyists the public and elected officials are a vital resource to create a majority consensus.

So what did the LA County Board of Supervisors actually do? All five Supervisors gathered in a closed-door meeting with Gov. Brown to discuss prison realignment. By my count they did not post a public notice of the meeting, they did not consider the issue in front of the public, they did not allow for public testimony on the matter and they each discussed an issue with a majority of their peers in private. Governor Brown in attendance doesn’t change the rules.

So what is the District Attorney recommending as punishment? Nothing.