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
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...
May 2020 Number 39 A would-be plaintiff’s ability to obtain relief from the government claim presentation requirement (the Government Claims Act, Gov. Code, § 810, et seq.) has been limited by the California Court of Appeal. In Lincoln Unified School Dist. v. Superior Court (2020) 45 Cal.App.5th 1079, the court held that a plaintiff may not request that a court waive the six-month time limit for submitting a claim to a public entity for reasons different than the plaintiff pres...
CDE Issues Template for Written Report in Place of LCAP; Executive Order N-56-20 Changes Budget Adoption Process for 2020-2021
May 2020Number 35The California Department of Education (CDE) has issued the template for local education agencies (LEAs) to use for their written report to the community explaining their changes to program offerings made in response to school closures to address COVID-19. Governor Newsom's Executive Order N-56-20 of April 22, 2020, provides that, for LEAs that adopt the written report as described, the deadline to adopt the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and budget overview for pa...
April 2020Number 25In Becerra v. Superior Court of San Francisco, California's First District Court of Appeal broadened the definition of documents that public agencies must provide pursuant to a request made under the Public Records Act (PRA), to include records in the possession of the agency regardless of the record's origin. The court held that the PRA "generally requires disclosure of all responsive records in the possession of the Department, regardless whether the records pertain to of...
New Brown Act Case Clarifies Brown Act’s Pending Litigation Exception When Litigation is Orally Threatened
April 2020Number 27On February 10, 2020, the California Court of Appeal decided Fowler v. City of Lafayette (2020) __ Cal.App.5th __, concluding a five-year dispute among neighbors involving the construction of a tennis court cabana on private residential property. Neighbors opposing the project challenged it at every stage in the review process. In the end, the disagreement embroiled the City of Lafayette (the City) in Brown Act litigation. On appeal, the case established new precedent gover...
Important Update: The deadline to file the Annual Statement of Economic Interests (Form 700) has been extended from April 1, 2020 to June 1, 2020
March 2020Number 18In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has announced it is allowing a 60-day extension for those required to file a 2019 Annual Statement of Economic Interests (Form 700). As a result of this extension, Form 700's normally due no later than April 1, 2020 will be accepted by the FPPC as timely filed if submitted by June 1, 2020. This extension applies to all officials required to file in April pursuant to Commission Regulati...