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
- Public Safety
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 997 Gives Students a Voice in the LCAP Process
February 2023Number 9Senate Bill (SB) 997 requires that, by July 1, 2024, all school districts and county offices of education serving students in middle or high school include students in the local control and accountability plan (LCAP) update process.BackgroundThe Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) refers broadly to the methods that primarily determine the level of funding California school districts receive from the State. As a component of the LCFF system, local educational agenci...
The End of the COVID-19 State of Emergency Impacts Remote Board Meetings under AB 361
February 2023Number 8Effective March 1, 2023, local agencies will no longer have the option to rely on the COVID-19 proclaimed state of emergency to conduct fully remote legislative body meetings pursuant to Assembly Bill (AB) 361.BackgroundOn March 4, 2020, Governor Newsom declared a state of emergency in California due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also signed various executive orders temporarily allowing legislative bodies of local agencies to conduct meetings virtually, relaxing the tradit...
The California Public Records Act Has All New Statutory Citations Starting January 1, 2023
January 2023Number 7Local government agencies regularly issue correspondence regarding the California Public Records Act (CPRA) which lists the statutes concerning the disclosure of public records. Starting on January 1, 2023, the CPRA’s statutory citations have changed. The California Legislature has moved all sections of the CPRA to a different section of the Government Code. This means referenced statutes contained in outdated letters may no longer be valid.The CPRA...
Attorney General Opines on Trustee Area Vacancies
December 2022Number 59On October 27, 2022, the California Attorney General (AG) released its Opinion No. 22-502 responding to pressing questions regarding vacancies on school district governing boards. Specifically, the AG opined:If a governing board member who was elected at-large vacates their seat during the district’s transition to by-trustee area elections, that vacancy should be filled “at-large.”If a board member vacates their seat while the school district is &...
Senate Bill 1439 Expands Certain Prohibitions of Accepting Campaign Contributions from Persons or Entities with Business Before a Public Agency
December 2022Number 56The Political Reform Act of 1974 (PRA) prohibits government officials from soliciting or accepting campaign contributions of more than $250 from persons with a proceeding for a license, permit, or other entitlement pending before the agency, if the officer knows or has reason to know that the donor has a financial interest in the proceeding. The existing prohibition applies 12 months before and extends for three months after the final decision is rendered in the pr...
New Options for Local Legislative Bodies to Access Public Meetings Remotely
October 2022Number 48State lawmakers have given members of local legislative bodies a new option for remote participation in public agency meetings.Assembly Bill (AB) 361 previously provided for remote attendance during declared emergencies through January 1, 2024. Now, effective January 1, 2023, AB 2449 retains existing Brown Act teleconferencing requirements for non-emergency situations, but also provides an additional opportunity for remote attendance even when there is no state of e...
Senate Bill 1100 Addresses Disruptive Public Conduct at Public Meetings
October 2022Number 45On August 21, 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 1100, which authorizes the presiding member of a legislative body to remove disruptive individuals during a public meeting. SB 1100 is intended to serve as a new mechanism for local officials to maintain the decorum of public meetings.BackgroundDue in part to the political climate and rhetoric during the COVID-19 pandemic, disorderly conduct at public meetings increased across California at alarming r...