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
June 2021Number 10The past two weeks have seen a flurry of changing guidance regarding the use of face masks at workplaces and schools. On June 17, 2021, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board adopted revised COVID-19 workplace rules and the Governor signed Executive Order N-09-21 making these rules effective immediately. The same day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance for fully vaccinated individuals to address changing rules on ...
June 2021Number 11On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed legislation known as the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act,” which amends Title 5 of the United States Code, Section 6103 (“Section 6103”), designating June 19 as a new “legal public holiday” to be known as Juneteenth National Independence Day.California school districts have asked whether the new federal holiday requires California schools to close on each June 19, and, if so, whether s...
June 2021Number 9SB 203 Extends and Expands Protections to Juveniles relating to Custodial InterrogationsSenate Bill (SB) 203, signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in late 2020, amended Welfare and Institutions Code section 625.6, relating to custodial interrogations of minors. Prior to the amendments, section 625.6 required law enforcement to ensure any youth aged 15 years or younger is provided with consultation with legal counsel prior to law enforcement engaging the youth in a custodi...
March 2021Number 7On March 19, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 95 into law. SB 95 provides COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave (COVID-19 SPSL) to covered employees until September 30, 2021. The new sick leave is in addition to any existing sick leave granted under California or federal law, and any other sick leave offered by employers, including under any collective bargaining agreement.SB 95 is a response to the continued impacts of COVID-19 on the workforce subsequent...
March 2021Number 6Signed by Gavin Newsom in September 2020, Assembly Bill 841 (AB 841) created the “School Energy Efficiency Stimulus Program” (the SEES Program) which, in turn, created two new grant programs intended to fund specific air quality, ventilation, energy efficiency, plumbing, and water efficiency improvements.Funded by electric and gas companies, the SEES Program establishes: (1) the School Reopening Ventilation and Energy Efficiency Verification and Repair Program (S...
February 2021Number 3On January 14, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued new guidance (the Guidance) for all of California's local educational agencies (LEAs), including county offices of education, school districts, charter schools, and private schools, including nonpublic and nonsectarian schools. The Guidance includes new guidelines affecting how LEAs should proceed with providing in-person instruction for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year, redefines wha...
Update on Timeline for Release of 2020 Census Redistricting Data and Impact On Upcoming CVRA Deadlines
*** UPDATED AS OF 2/12/21 ***February 2021Number 4As stated in our February 2021 Client News Brief (link here), the impact of COVID-19 caused the Census Bureau to delay delivery of the 2020 Census apportionment data to the states.As an update, the Bureau recently announced that it will deliver the redistricting data to all states by September 30, 2021. This is two months later than previously expected, and six months later than the statutorily contemplated deadline. This delay will impact man...