COVID-19 And Public Meetings: An Update On The Brown Act Requirements

Teleconferencing Phone

On March 17, 2020, Governor Newsom issued a new Executive Order that relaxed additional requirements of the Brown Act. Water Law attorney Brett Stroud prepared the following update for our clients and those who conduct business at public meetings: 

Yesterday, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-29-20 (“March 17 Order”), which altered some of the provisions of his previous Executive Order N-25-20 (“March 12 Order”), including his relaxation of certain Brown Act requirements.

The March 17 Order differs from the March 12 Order in one significant respect: it removes the requirement that an agency provides a publicly accessible location from which members of the public can observe the meeting and provide public comment. Instead, an agency may hold the meeting entirely by teleconference, provided it also “implements a procedure for receiving and swiftly resolving requests for reasonable modification or accommodation from individuals with disabilities, consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act and resolving any doubt whatsoever in favor of accessibility” and “advertise that procedure each time notice is given of the means by which members of the public may observe the meeting and offer public comment.”

In short, the March 17 Order permits an agency “to hold public meetings via teleconferencing and to make public meetings accessible telephonically or otherwise electronically to all members of the public.”  The agency must provide notice within the usual timeframe, provide a method for members of the public to offer public comment during the teleconference meeting, and provide a procedure for members of the public to request accommodations based on disability.

Like the March 12 Order, the March 17 Order applies specifically “during the period in which state or local public officials impose or recommend measures to promote social distancing, including but not limited to limitations on public events.”  On March 16, the California Department of Public Health issued updated guidance relative to public gatherings. That guidance indicates that “all gatherings should be postponed or canceled.”

If you have any questions or would like specific advice on applying the March 17 Order for your agency, please feel free to contact an attorney in our Water and Special Districts Department. In particular, if you plan to hold a meeting by teleconference, please contact us for assistance in preparing your agenda. We can be reached by phone at 661-327-9661.

The Law Offices of Young Wooldridge, LLP is a full-service law firm serving Bakersfield, California and all of Kern County. Our firm is recognized as a leader in the community, and we offer and extensive and wide variety of legal services including, but not limited to water law, personal injury, business law, employment and labor law, estate planning, real estate, and much more. Please reach out today to talk to a member of our team.