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
July 2022Number 32On June 23, 2022, the United States Department of Education (Department) released its long-awaited Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 for public review. The 701-page document (published here) outlines the Department’s proposed new Title IX regulations. Four of the major changes in the proposed regulations are highlighted below.While the proposed regulations are currently available for review, they are still ...
Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Football Coach Conducting Brief, Quiet, and Personal Post-Game Prayer on the Field
July 2022Number 31On June 27, 2022, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of a high school football coach holding that the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the United States Constitution’s First Amendment protected his personal and individual prayer on the field following three football games in October 2015. Overruling Lemon v. Kurtzman, the Court rejected Bremerton School District’s (District) position that it was compelled to prohibit Kennedy’s demo...
United States Supreme Court Speaks on Government Versus Private Speech in Residents' Display of Flags on Public Property
July 2022Number 30In Shurtleff v. City of Boston (2022) 142 S.Ct. 1583 (Shurtleff), the United States Supreme Court, for the first time, addressed a topic that presents a common and growing issue for public agencies related to the intersection between government versus private speech under the First Amendment: residents’ use of government property to display flags of their choosing. The distinction is important because, when the government speaks, the First Amendment does no...
June 2022Number 27June 23, 2022, marks the 50th Anniversary of Title IX. On June 23, 1972, President Richard Nixon signed Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 into law, prohibiting federally funded educational institutions from discriminating against students or employees based on sex. In its entirety, Title IX states:“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits from, or be subject to discrimination under ...
Governor Newsom's Executive Order Regarding Economic Sanctions on Russia Creates Confusion for Local Agencies
June 2022Number 25On March 4, 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-6-22 in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The Order instructs all agencies and departments that are subject to the Governor's authority to review their investments and contracts to ensure compliance with economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the US government or the State of California. This includes refraining from completing new investments and financial transactions with Russian institutions or c...
June 2022Number 26On May 26, 2022, the California Attorney General (AG) issued Opinion No. 21-1102, addressing certain aspects of "closed session" attendance under the Ralph M. Brown Act. Specifically, the AG opined:(1) Legislative support staff of an individual city councilmember generally may not attend closed sessions unless the staff member has an "official or essential role" to play;(2) City councilmembers may not share information obtained in closed session with their individual suppor...
May 2022Number 22A recent U.S. District Court decision out of Washington State provides clarification regarding how school districts are to apply their sexual harassment policies and analyze conduct as it relates to students with disabilities. Specifically, the decision in Berg v. Bethel School District (W.D. Wash., Mar. 16, 2022, No. 3:18-CV-5345-BHS) clarifies that a school district is required to protect students with disabilities from sexual harassment, even if the student does not specif...