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
  • 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

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

AB 764: California Changes the Process for Educational Agencies and Special Districts Undergoing the By-Trustee Area Districting and Redistricting Process

By:Michelle Cannon, Jaspreet Lochab-Dogra -

March 2024Number 14AB 764 expands key aspects of the FAIR MAPS Act to apply to school districts, community college districts and county boards of education (referred to herein as “educational agencies”), as well as special districts.BackgroundMany educational agencies and special districts’ governing board members are elected at-large, meaning that each board member is elected by voters of the entire territory of the agency. Educational agencies and special districts that ho...

Four Bills Affecting Student Attendance Requirements

By:Ruth Mendyk, Alyssa Bivins, Ligia Nicolae -

January 2024Number 1In October 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom signed four new bills into law that amend existing sections of the Education Code to extend excused absences related to attending religious retreats (AB 1503) and funeral services of immediate family members (SB 350), extend the time to determine an interdistrict transfer appeal (SB 413), and grant homeless and foster youth priority access to intersession programs (AB 373).Assembly Bill 1503 – Excused Absences for Religious Retr...

A Series of New Laws Revise Surplus Land Act Procedures for Local Agencies

By:Laurie Avedisian-Favini, Jennifer Thompson -

January 2024Number 3In October 2023, Governor Newsom signed a collection of bills making significant changes to the Surplus Land Act.The Surplus Land Act requires local agencies to complete certain procedures before disposing of surplus land, either by sale or lease. These procedures include (among a host of others) taking formal action in a public meeting to declare the land surplus, and providing notice to certain entities prior to the disposal of surplus land. There are several statutory ...

New Legislation Places Limits on Termination of Superintendents Without Cause

By:Wiley Driskill, Rebal Halabi -

December 2023Number 44On October 13, 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 494, which limits the circumstances under which a school board can take action to terminate cabinet-level employees. First, SB 494 prohibits the governing board of a school district from taking action to terminate a superintendent or assistant superintendent without cause, at a special or emergency meeting of the board. Second, SB 494 prohibits the governing board from taking action to terminate a superin...

Expansion of Opportunities and Incentives to Students Serving as Pupil Members of Governing Boards

By:Ryan Tung, Janae Castellani -

November 2023Number 42Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed two bills into law that expand the opportunities and incentives for students to serve as pupil members of governing boards.First, Assembly Bill (AB) 417 expands who can be selected to serve as a pupil member of the county board of education (County BOE) in cases where a petition has not been submitted for the selection of a student. For context, there are two ways for a pupil member to be appointed to the position of a County BOE: (1...

A Reminder that Mandatory Ethics Training for School Officials is Coming

By:Anne Collins, Adam Vasquez -

November 2023Number 39Starting January 1, 2025, officials in school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools must complete ethics training at least once every two years. Assembly Bill (AB) 2158, signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in September 2022 amends California’s Government Code to mandate ethics training for relevant educational officials, in alignment with the existing “AB 1234 Training” requirement in place since 2006 for officials in cities, ...

California Supreme Court Issues Long-Awaited Decision in California Voting Rights Act Challenge

By:Harold Freiman, Ryan Tung, James McCann -

September 2023Number 34On August 24, 2023, the California Supreme Court issued its highly anticipated opinion in Pico Neighborhood Association et al., v. City of Santa Monica, reversing an unprecedented Court of Appeal decision that had previously favored the City of Santa Monica.  In reaching its decision, the Supreme Court established a new standard for evaluating California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) claims, including: (1) clarifying that a plaintiff must prove both racially polarized v...