SACRAMENTO — Governor Gavin Newsom issued the second of two executive orders, Tuesday, March 17, conditionally suspending certain Brown Act provisions to allow local agencies to hold public meetings virtually through teleconferencing, without any physical gathering of people. The first executive order required agencies to provide at least one physical location where members of the public could participate in the meeting. The March 17, order eliminated this requirement.
Legislative body meetings must still post public notices in accordance with the Brown Act and the agency must provide a means for the public to observe the meeting and provide public comment electronically or telephonically. For instance, the agency must accept comments by email, similar to a webinar, or allow the public to dial into the meeting through a conference call where they would be “unmuted” during public comment.
The opportunities for public observation and participation must be included in the meeting notice. The agency is also required to establish a process for receiving and resolving any requests for reasonable accommodation to allow accessibility to persons with disabilities. These provisions will remain in effect “during the period in which state or local public health officials have imposed or recommended social distancing measures.”
The executive order admonishes public agencies to “use sound discretion” in applying these provisions, and counties would be well-advised to defer controversial matters that are not time-critical until normal Brown Act meetings can be resumed, according to the order.