Conducting agency business in public can be complicated. It requires staff, administrators, and board members to strictly adhere to ever-changing laws, impacting meetings, communications, timelines, and use of technology. As general counsel, Lozano Smith attorneys join alongside publicly elected boards, and routinely advise on the most pressing governance issues, including:
- Brown Act
- Public Records Act
- Political Reform Act
- California Voting Rights Act
- Conflicts of interest
- Gifts and perks
- Ethics and board service
- E-Communication and open government
- Board/Administration: roles & responsibilities
Effective Governance Workshop
Recognizing the need for leaders to remain well-informed of critical issues while successfully conducting the public’s business, Lozano Smith created a cutting-edge workshop for board members and City Council members. This workshop walks through practical strategies for effective governance, including:
- Allowable closed session topics
- Maintaining confidentiality of closed session discussions
- Regular and special meetings of the board
- Board bylaws
- The Public's Role at Board Meetings
- Establishing Positive Relationships
- Regular and Special Meetings of the Board
- Board Member Conduct and Liability
- Effective Communication Between Board Members
- Tips for Effective Communication with the Public
We regularly advise clients on the open meeting requirements of the Ralph M. Brown Act and routinely provide individualized trainings to address specific needs of our clients. We have also successfully defended Brown Act suits at the trial and appellate levels. For example, Duval v. Board of Trustees (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 902 established the principle that a legislative body may conduct comprehensive personnel evaluations in closed session, including a discussion of evaluation criteria and setting goals for future performance.
The firm also publishes annual handbooks and materials available at no cost for clients to use in understanding and complying with the Brown Act.
Public Records Act
We assist our clients in responding to Public Records Act requests from receipt of an initial demand through completion. Our attorneys and paralegals routinely deal with unique issues such as requests for salary or personnel information, electronic documents, documents related to closed-session meetings or pending litigation. All Lozano Smith attorneys are well versed in the Public Records Act and remain abreast of recent legislation and case law, understanding how each impacts our client’s obligations to maintain and disclose public records.
Conflicts of Interest
We frequently train and advise clients, including the elected board, regarding a wide range of conflicts of interest and ethics issues. Often, we counsel public agencies on: understanding public officials’ obligations to disclose their economic interests; identifying conflicts of interest; abstaining from participating in certain governmental decisions; and properly disclosing potential conflicts at public meetings.
Board Counsel and Support
Lozano Smith attorneys, as general counsel, guide and support public elected boards through creation and implementation of board policies, media relations, communication with the public, election issues, political activity, and conflict of interest issues, including the proper conduct of candidate and ballot measure elections. The firm’s attorneys advise on many election-related topics, including:
- Timing and conduct of elections, election contests and voter registration issues
- Trustee elections, including moving to by-trustee area elections
- Restrictions on use of agency equipment and media for political purposes
- Political activity on campus by board members, staff, and third parties
- Guidelines for mass mailings sent at public expense
- Lobbying and campaign finance regulation
February 2021Number 3On January 14, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued new guidance (the Guidance) for all of California's local educational agencies (LEAs), including county offices of education, school districts, charter schools, and private schools, including nonpublic and nonsectarian schools. The Guidance includes new guidelines affecting how LEAs should proceed with providing in-person instruction for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year, redefines wha...
Update on Timeline for Release of 2020 Census Redistricting Data and Impact On Upcoming CVRA Deadlines
*** UPDATED AS OF 2/12/21 ***February 2021Number 4As stated in our February 2021 Client News Brief (link here), the impact of COVID-19 caused the Census Bureau to delay delivery of the 2020 Census apportionment data to the states.As an update, the Bureau recently announced that it will deliver the redistricting data to all states by September 30, 2021. This is two months later than previously expected, and six months later than the statutorily contemplated deadline. This delay will impact man...
Expiration of Expanded and Supplemental Leave under Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act and AB 1867
February 2021Number 2FFCRA LeaveIn March of 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was passed by Congress. The FFCRA provided, among other things, expanded Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave for child care, and also required employers to provide up to 80 hours of Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) to employees for COVID-19 related reasons. Our Client News Brief discussing leave provisions granted by the FFCRA can be found here: 2020 Client News Brief Number 17. The FFC...
Release of the 2020 Census Data, its Relevance under the California Voting Rights Act, and its Impact on Public Agency Elections
February 2021Number 1In October of 2020, the United States Census Bureau completed "the count" for the 2020 Decennial Census. While the Bureau has yet to finish tabulating and verifying the final results, the anticipated release of the 2020 Census data will have an important impact on school district and public agency elections. Those public agencies that have already transitioned to "by-district" (or for school districts, "by-trustee area") elections are required by law to analyze the new Ce...
December 2020Number 84The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board recently adopted new COVID-19 emergency temporary standards. The temporary standards became effective on November 30, 2020, and expire October 2, 2021. The temporary standards apply to almost all employers and places of employment, with very few exceptions. The exceptions include workplaces where there is only one employee who does not have contact with other people, employees who work from home, and certain e...
New Appellate Court Case Reaffirms that School District's Imposition of Developer Fees is Tied to the General Type of Construction, not the Particular Project
November 2020Number 82In a recent ruling, a California appellate court upheld a school district's imposition of developer fees on a residential project oriented towards college students, rejecting the developer's argument that the fees were improper because the project would allegedly generate no district students. (AMCAL Chico LLC v. Chico Unified School District (November 5, 2020) __ Cal.App.5th. _____ ). The Court borrowed heavily from the decision in Tanimura & Antle Fresh Foods, Inc....
October 22, 2020Number 78Three new pieces of legislation addressing rights and graduation requirements of high school students in California were recently proposed. Two were signed by the Governor and their impacts are summarized here. Assembly Bill (AB) 1350 addresses the retroactive granting of diplomas to students affected by COVID-19, AB 908 address eligibility for athletics and work permits for students negatively affected by COVID-19 and other emergencies, and AB 331, if passed, would h...