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
  • Elections
  • 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

Brown Act

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

Government Code 1090 Challenges by Third Parties Clarified and Limited by California Supreme Court

By:Harold Freiman, William Curley III, Kate Holding -

January 2020Number 5The California Supreme Court has ruled that third parties (private citizens, taxpayers, watchdog groups, etc.) do not have legal standing to sue public agencies to invalidate contracts allegedly made in violation of Government Code section 1090.BackgroundGovernment Code section 1090 is a "good government" law prohibiting public officials and public employees from participating in any way in the "making" or awarding of a contract in which they hold a financial interest. The...

Court Rules that Second Contract with the Same Vendor Did Not Create a Conflict of Interest

By:Arne Sandberg, Gayle Ketchie -

January 2020Number 6A recent California Appellate Court ruling has determined that a public entity's award of a second contract to a construction firm did not create a conflict of interest even though it related to an earlier contract between the parties. InCalifornia Taxpayers Action Network v. Taber Construction, Inc. (2019) A145078, the First Appellate District held that the contractor's second contract with a school district did not create a conflict of interest because both contracts we...

Appellate Court Finds That Solar Energy Project Was Not Exempt From City’s Zoning Ordinance

By:Claudia Weaver, Jessica Mejorado -

November 2019Number 75A recent California appellate court ruling has clarified the requirements for a local agency's compliance with city or county zoning ordinances. In City of Hesperia v. Lake Arrowhead Community Services District, the Fourth Appellate District held that a community services district did not qualify for zoning compliance exemptions as provided in sections 53091(e) and 53096(a) of the Government Code, after the district had adopted a resolution finding the exemptions applica...

The United States Supreme Court Again Confronts The Reach Of The Establishment Clause

By:Sloan Simmons, Jenell Van Bindsbergen -

September 2019Number 40In American Legion, et al. v. American Humanist Association, et al., the United States Supreme Court, by split decision, ruled that a World War I memorial in Prince George's County, Maryland, consisting of a cross, did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which prohibits the government from establishing an official religion or favoring one religion over another.In 1918, residents of Prince George's County formed ...

The California Court of Appeal Has Spoken, Not Just Anyone Can Be Elected County Sheriff—So Says County Clerk

By:William Curley III, Ryan Harrison, Sr. -

April 2019Number 20In 2017, basketball Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O'Neil was sworn in as a deputy sheriff of Henry County, Georgia. The momentous occasion concluded with a moment levity at the end of the swearing-in ceremony when Mr. O'Neil announced his candidacy for County Sheriff in 2020. His wit was fueled by the tacit understanding that county sheriff is a position requiring the qualification of sufficient prior law enforcement experience. World-class basketball skills, although highly impo...

PERB Decision Provides Guidance Addressing “Public Hearing” Requirement

By:Jenell Van Bindsbergen, Meera Bhatt -

March 2019Number 17 In a recent decision, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) addressed the public hearing requirement an agency must satisfy before implementing its last, best, and final offer (LBFO), after completing applicable impasse procedures. In City of Yuba City (2018) PERB Dec. No. 2603-M, PERB upheld an administrative law judge decision dismissing an unfair practice charge brought against the City of Yuba City (City) by Public Employees Union Local 1 (Local 1) alleging viol...

Brown Act’s “Committee Exception” Does Not Apply To Special Meetings

By:William Curley III, Matthew Lear -

March 2019Number 18A California appellate court has focused on the distinction between a regular meeting and a special meeting of the local legislative body when considering an exception to public comment under the Ralph M. Brown Act (Brown Act). In Preven v. City of Los Angeles (Preven), the Second District Court of Appeal found that the City of Los Angeles had improperly relied on the Brown Act's "committee exception" to stop public comment during a special meeting regarding a topic that ha...