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
April 2022Number 18On March 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court decided a case relevant to public agency governing boards managing disruptive board members. The case was originally brought by David Wilson, an elected trustee on the Houston Community College Board. Wilson had made a number of public accusations against his fellow board members. He sued after the Board censured him for his disruptive comments, arguing the censure violated his First Amendment rights.In Houston Community Co...
March 2022Number 16The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released new guidance, which includes changes to the legal requirements for face masks and new health and safety recommendations for local educational agencies to consider.On February 25, 2022, the CDC released new guidance describing how the CDC now measures the impact of COVID-19 on local health and healthcare systems within each U.S. county. This new guidan...
Level I Developer Fee Raised, and Important New Requirements to Adopt Justification Studies and School Facilities Needs Analysis
March 2022Number 14In each even calendar year, the State Allocation Board (SAB) adopts an inflationary increase to what is commonly known as the “Level 1” school impact fee. At its meeting on February 23, 2022, the SAB increased the statutory Level 1 fees by 17.45 percent, to $4.79 per square foot for residential construction and $0.78 per square foot for commercial construction.In order to collect either Level 1 fees, or the higher Level 2 fees, school districts must first ...
February 2022Number 12Since the State-provided Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (Senate Bill 95) expired at the end of September 2021, and with the recent COVID-19 surge due to the Omicron variant, both employees and employers have wondered whether the Legislature and Governor would again grant additional paid sick leave to employees affected by COVID-19. On February 9, 2022, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 114 into law providing COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave for employees. SB 114...
February 2022Number 11On September 27, 2021, Governor Newsom approved Senate Bill (SB) 606, which added and amended multiple sections of the Labor Code. SB 606 took effect January 1, 2022, and expanded the enforcement powers of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), with costly implications for employers that do not heed the new changes.In brief, Cal/OSHA’s new authority under the Labor Code includes (a) penalties for employers cited for “egregio...
February 2022Number 9In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-35-20 on March 21, 2020 (Executive Order). The Executive Order extends the time by which a claim must be presented to a public entity under the Government Claims Act by 60 days. Subsequent orders issued by the Governor further extend or clarify the time to submit a claim as originally stated in the Executive Order. Recently, the California Court of Appeals for the Second Appellate Distric...
New Law Prohibits Employers from Preventing Employee Disclosure of Alleged Workplace Discrimination and Harassment
February 2022Number 6Effective January 1, 2022, Senate Bill (SB) 331 makes it unlawful for employers to enter into agreements with employees in exchange for employees’ silence on information concerning claims or complaints of workplace discrimination or harassment, subject to certain exemptions.BackgroundSB 331 builds on SB 820 which was passed in 2018 and went into effect January 1, 2019, preventing employers from prohibiting employees from disclosing information about alleged sexual h...