INFORMATION: SB 1003 (Yee) would amend the Brown Act to allow a court to determine the Act’s applicability to past actions of a local legislative body alleged to be violations.  The bill is a corrective to an unpublished decision of the Fifth District Court of Appeal (review denied by the Supreme Court) concluding that a trial court had no authority to address past actions of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors in a challenge to the legality of those actions.

In that case the late Richard McKee, suing in his own behalf rather than that of CalAware and later joined by the local Gannett newspapers and the California Newspaper Publishers Association, asked the court to find that a series of private lunch gatherings of the supervisors and staff, on the same days as their meetings and with meal costs reimbursed to the supervisors as involving county business, violated the Brown Act by involving discussion of matters that should have been confined to open sessions.

The trial court ruled that those matters, which included issues of the supervisors’ travel and office administration, were not policy matters and therefore not official enough for the Brown Act to apply.

On appeal, the Fifth District concluded that since the meetings had been discontinued (ignoring the testimony to the contrary by county counsel), there was no basis for declaratory and injunctive relief, which applied only to ongoing or threatened violations.  SB 1003 would add the words “and past” to the statute—an adjustment made to the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act in response to a similarly pinched ruling by the California Supreme Court in 1999.