Thursday, December 22, 2005
Electronic Posting of City’s Meeting Agendas Permissible Under Ralph M. Brown Act, Attorney General Says
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A local governing body may use a publicly accessible electronic kiosk instead of a bulletin board to post its meeting agendas, Attorney General Bill Lockyer has opined.
In an opinion released yesterday, Lockyer informed Fresno Prosecuting Attorney Hilda Cantu Montoy that the requirement of the Ralph M. Brown Act that an agenda be “posted” is satisfied as long as the agenda can be viewed without charge in a place where the public can see it.
The city, Lockyer noted, proposes to place the kiosk in front of city hall and make it accessible free of charge 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with appropriate disabled access. By touching the relevant item on the kiosk’s menu screen, users would be able to view agendas for the City Council, as well as for all boards and commissions subject to the Brown Act.
The proposal satisfies the Brown Act, Lockyer said, because it is consistent with both the statute’s plain language and its purpose.
“Post,” the attorney general explained, is defined in dictionaries as meaning “to affix (as a paper or bill) to a post, wall, or other usual place for public notices,” “to publish, announce, or advertise by or as if by the use of a placard” or “[t]o publicize or announce by affixing a notice in a public place.” Some entities, including the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, already “post” their agendas on their web pages, Lockyer noted.
The purpose behind the Brown Act, Lockyer said, is to enable citizens to monitor their government by knowing when and where it is meeting and what items are being discussed.
The act reads in part:
“The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”
“Providing agendas in an electronic format permits citizens to obtain the information more conveniently than if the same documents were posted on a traditional bulletin board in paper form. Compared to a typical bulletin board, an electronic kiosk offers greater readability, better lighting, increased accessibility for disabled persons, and reduced vandalism.”
The opinion, No. 04-1217, was prepared for Lockyer by Deputy Attorney General Susan Duncan Lee.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company