SB 1003 adds language to the current Brown Act to allow for injunctive and declaratory relief for past violations, which will more closely mirror the Bagley-Keene Act – the open government statute for state agencies. In other words, the new law allows members of the public to file a lawsuit – under certain circumstances – against local agencies that violate the open government statute.
“SB 1003 ensures the public has the tools necessary to hold public agencies that violate the Brown Act to account,” said Yee. “Absent this new law, some public agencies would continue to violate the public trust without consequence.”
“This is an important tool for the public to enforce the Brown Act and ensures California’s open meeting law does not become toothless,” said Jim Ewert, General Counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association.
The bill comes as a result of McKee v. County of Tulare, in which the Court ruled that there could be no injunctive and declaratory relief for a past violation because the Tulare Board of Supervisors appeared to stop violating the law after the lawsuit was filed. Instead, the petitioners would need to initiate a new lawsuit if the board returned to its previous bad behavior.
The ruling created the potential for an endless loop – violation, followed by corrective behavior once a lawsuit is filed, followed by a violation again – without any real penalty.
“The Brown Act was designed to bring transparency to government, and not to serve as means to play dodge ball to avoid accountability,” said Yee. “SB 1003 will close this loophole and provide sunshine into the actions of our public agencies.”
ADAM J. KEIGWIN | 凱雲 | CHIEF OF STAFF
OFFICE OF SENATOR LELAND YEE, PH. D.
(916) 651-4008 | WWW.SENATE.CA.GOV/YEE