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
New Laws Streamline Process for Sale or Lease of School District Surplus Property and Allow for Flexible Use of Sale Proceeds
September 2020Number 68With two separate recently passed laws, the California Legislature has altered the procedures surrounding school district disposition of surplus property. Senate Bill 98 (SB 98), an education omnibus budget trailer bill signed into law on June 29, 2020, allows for more flexible use of the proceeds of a sale of surplus property. Senate Bill 820 (SB 820), an education finance bill signed into law on September 18, 2020, makes significant changes to requirements related to ...
September 2020Number 66On August 11, 2020, California's Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld the dismissal of Patricia Crawford (Crawford), a certificated guidance counselor for the Jurupa Unified School District (District), on the grounds that her comments on a colleague's Facebook post concerning students were immoral and demonstrated she was unfit for service. Crawford v. Commission on Professional Competence (August 11, 2020, E071770) __ Cal.App.5th __) sheds much-needed light on a scho...
Attorney General Confirms Board or Council Member Health Care Benefits cannot be more Generous than Employee Benefits
August 2020Number 64The California Attorney General, in a recent opinion, has concluded that members of legislative bodies may not receive health and welfare benefits not widely offered to the agencies' employees and officers and that mistakes made in determining benefit plans offered to legislative body members can yield serious consequences.BackgroundThe City of Moreno Valley (City) provided its City Council members with benefit contributions at a flat rate plus a percentage of the average ...
July 2020Number 61In a series of executive orders addressing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Gavin Newsom has extended a statutorily-imposed timeline significant to public entities. The first 60-day extension, which applies to the deadline to file claims against public agencies, was published on March 21, 2020, under Executive Order N-35-20. Then, on May 19th, the Governor issued Executive Order N-65-20 which extended the deadline an additional 60 days. Finally, the deadline was on...
Court of Appeal Rules that Santa Monica’s At-large Method of Elections Does Not Violate the California Voting Rights Act
July 2020Number 58On July 9, 2020, California's Second District Court of Appeal unanimously held that the City of Santa Monica's (City) at-large elections do not violate the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) (Elec. Code, § 14025, et seq.). The CVRA is a state law that allows voters to sue public agencies whose at-large elections may result in underrepresentation of minorities. Pico Neighborhood Association et al., v. City of Santa Monica represents the first time a public agency has su...
Senate Bill 98 Suspends LCAPs for 2020-2021; Instead, LEAs Must Adopt a Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan
July 2020Number 52Senate Bill (SB) 98, the Education Budget Trailer Bill, suspends the requirement to adopt a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) for the 2020-2021 school year. Instead, for the 2020-21 school year, local educational agencies (LEA) will be required to adopt a "learning continuity and attendance plan."The Governor had previously, through Executive Order N-56-20, extended the 2020-21 LCAP adoption and LCAP budget overview deadlines from July 1 to December 15, 2020. (See 202...
May 2020 Number 44 It is sometimes difficult for elected officials to remain unbiased when considering controversial matters, while properly representing their constituents at the same time. Nonetheless, when acting in a quasai-adjudicatory capacity, elected officials must be "neutral and unbiased," and must recuse themselves if they are unable to do so. In Petrovich Development Company, LLC v. City of Sacramento (April 8, 2020, C087283) ___Cal.App.5th ___, the court found that a Sacramen...