Alert: Local Agencies Now Must Publish Individual Board Member Votes

Public Agency  

December 2013

On September 6, 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 751 into law, amending the Ralph M. Brown Act (Government Code § 54950 et seq.) to require the votes of each member of a legislative body of a local agency to be publicly reported.

The Brown Act requires all meetings of the legislative body of a local agency to be held in public, unless a closed session is specifically authorized. Under existing law, the Brown Act only requires local agencies’ legislative bodies to report the votes of individual officials for closed meetings and meetings conducted by teleconference. These provisions exist so that the public can know how individual boards members vote when the vote is not taken in the public’s presence. However, existing law does not require local agencies to report individual officials’ votes that are cast during open meetings.

SB 751 adds Government Code § 54953 (c)(2), which requires that the “legislative body of a local agency shall publicly report any action taken and the vote or abstention on that action of each member present for the action.” The stated reason for this change is to enable members of the public who are not present at public meetings to hold individual board members accountable for how they vote. This change means that, beginning on January 1, 2014, the votes (or abstention) of individual board members must be publicly reported for any board action taken.

To comply with this change, governing boards should ensure that the clerk or secretary tracks individual board members’ votes and records them in the meeting minutes. For instance, meeting minutes may not merely reflect that the board adopted or rej ected a resolution. Rather, each board member’s vote must be reported contemporaneously, and the minutes should show how each member voted. If the clerk or secretary cannot track individual votes, governing boards should conduct votes by oral roll-call and record each vote as it is cast. By January 1, 2014, agencies also should review their board policies and bylaws to reflect this amendment.
The only other change to the Brown Act in this legislative session was AB 246, which adds the Governor to the list of persons and institutions with which a local agency can hold a closed session regarding public safety or security matters. 1350460.1