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

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

By:Harold Freiman, Peter Sumulong -

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, ...

Governor Signs Two Bills Affecting High School Students, Vetoes a Third

By:Sarah Garcia, Deniss Escorcia Dimas -

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...

New Regulations Regarding Uniform Complaint Procedures Took Effect July 1, 2020

By:Marisa Lincoln, Carolyn Gemma, Sarah Fama -

October 20, 2020Number 77On July 1, 2020, new regulations went into effect regarding Uniform Complaint Procedures (UCP) found at Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations, sections 4600 through 4670[1] (Regulations). With changes to nearly every section of the Regulations, there is much information for Local Education Agencies (LEA) to digest and implement. This Client News Brief provides an overview of the changes.Scope of AllegationsUnder the new Regulations, complaints regarding specia...

New California Law Provides COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave for Food Service Workers, Health Care Providers and Emergency Responders

By:Ryan Harrison, Sr., Scott Cross -

October 15, 2020Number 71Recently enacted Assembly Bill (AB) 1867 created new Labor Code sections 248 and 248.1 which require employers to provide additional COVID-19 paid sick leave (CPSL) to food service workers, health care providers, and emergency responders. AB 1867 went into effect immediately upon being signed on September 9, 2020.Sections 248 and 248.1 codified Governor Newsom’s prior Executive Order (EO) N-51-20 pertaining to CPSL, and also added additional provisions and clari...

New CFRA Bill Expands Job-Protected Leave

By:Sarah Kaatz, Angela Okamura -

October 15, 2020Number 72On September 17, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 1383, a bill which expands the reach and application of the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), by applying it to employers with five or more employees, by expanding the list of family members with serious health conditions that an employee may take leave to care for, and by eliminating other limitations for use. The bill goes into effect on January 1, 2021.By implementing these changes, ...

New Law Finally Attempts to Address Social Media Use and the Brown Act

By:Harold Freiman, David Wolfe -

October 15, 2020Number 73May a member of an elected board, council, or other body subject to the Brown Act comment on, “retweet” or “like” a social media post from another member without risking a Brown Act violation? A new law signed by Governor Newsom, Assembly Bill (AB) 992, effective January 1, 2021, aims to clarify what types of social media interactions are permissible under the Brown Act, and which are not.When the Brown Act was enacted in 1953, social media as ...

The Effect of SB 820 on the Recording of Distance Learning

By:Gabriela Flowers, Sabrina Buendia -

October 2020Number 70As school districts and county offices of education across California prepared to open their schools in a virtual distance learning format, electronic recording of remote instruction sessions became a topic of interest in labor negotiations. Existing law on the issue did not contemplate distance learning and the needs of students using a remote platform.On August 22, 2020, the Legislature released the August budget trailer bills, which made a number of major changes conce...