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

Preparing for the New Year: Student Laws for 2022

By:Ruth Mendyk -

December 2021Number 48While COVID-19 dominated the focus of new rules and protocols during 2021, the California Legislature enacted several other new laws that school districts must be ready to put in place for 2022. Following is a quick summary of these new laws, along with links to the related Client New Briefs for more details.Senate Bill 14 – Students shall be excused from school when the absence is for the benefit of the student’s mental or behavioral health. This portion of ...

New Requirements for the Protection and Collection of Certain Student Records and Information

By:Sarah Kaatz, Ruth Mendyk, Eleanor Welke -

December 2021Number 47Senate Bill 24 – Protective Orders Regarding Student RecordsSenate Bill (SB) 24, signed into law on October 11, 2021, added section 6323.5 to the Family Code, which will allow courts, commencing January 1, 2023, to issue restraining orders prohibiting a party from accessing “records and information pertaining to the health care, education, daycare, recreational activities, or employment of a minor child of the parties.” Importantly, SB 24 authorizes cou...

New Penalties for Failure to Provide Unions with Employee Contact Information

By:Dulcinea Grantham, Crystal Pizano -

December 2021Number 45On September 27, 2021, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 270, which becomes effective July 1, 2022, and amends the Public Employee Communications Chapter (PECC), codified in Government Code section 3555, et seq. Specifically, SB 270 authorizes public employee unions to file unfair practice charges with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) against public employers that fail to comply with existing law requiring disclosure of employee information to the union...

No Vested Right to Retiree Benefits Where Plan Included Anti-Vesting Language

By:Wiley Driskill, Janae Castellani -

December 2021Number 44On October 28, 2021, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion in Harris v. County of Orange (9th Cir. October 28, 2021, No. 19-56387) __ F.3d __, reiterating the standard enunciated by the California Supreme Court in Retired Employees Association of Orange County, Inc. v. County of Orange (REAOC III), creating a high burden on plaintiffs to be able establish an implied vested right to certain benefits. This standard ensures neither the public entity nor ...

Ethnic Studies to Become a Required High School Course

By:Chelsea Olson Murphy, Joshua Whiteside -

November 2021Number 42On October 8, 2021, Governor Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill (AB) 101, which authorizes all local educational agencies (LEAs) including charter schools, serving high school students to provide a full-year course in ethnic studies to high school students by the 2025-26 school year. AB 101 also will require completion of a one-semester course in ethnic studies as a high school graduation requirement for students graduating in the 2029-30 school year and beyond.A simil...

In a Case Involving Tragic Facts, Appellate Court Upholds School District and Employees' Immunity from Liability for Student Off-Campus, Unsupervised Injuries

By:Wiley Driskill, Andrea Ortega -

December 2021Number 43A California Court of Appeal has held that a school district and its employees are not responsible for the safety of a student when the student is not on school property, unless the student is involved in activities undertaken or supervised by the school district. (LeRoy v. Yarboi (Oct. 27, 2021, E072951) __Cal.App.5th __ [2021 WL 5323329].) In reaching its decision, the court interpreted Education Code section 44808 to limit a school district’s liability for after...

Deadline Approaching to Begin Process to Repatriate Collections of Native American Remains and Cultural Items

By:Michelle Cannon, Jennifer Thompson -

November 2021Number 40Assembly Bill (AB) 275 was passed and signed by Governor Newsom on September 25, 2020. AB 275 strengthens existing law that requires state-funded institutions, including cities, counties, school districts, higher educational institutions, and museums (“agencies”), to repatriate collections of Native American human remains and artifacts in their possession or under their control to culturally affiliated California Native American tribes. AB 275 became law on J...