California Open Meetings Act
The California Open Meetings Act is a combination of the Ralph M. Brown Act, which legislates local government and political subdivisions, the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, which legislates the executive branch of the state, and the Grunsky-Burton Open Meeting Act, which legislates methods by which public meets are conducted on the state level.
If violated, the penalties for all three acts are the same. The violations are considered misdemeanors. Individuals have 90 days from the alleged violation to file a complaint. Prior to filing suit, they are required to contact the public agency in question and request that they remedy the violation. The public agency has 30 days to act on the request. After the 30 days are complete, individuals have 15 days to file suit in court.
Brown Act: Gov’t Code §54950-54960.5
Closed: Consultation on pending litigation; discipline of public employees; real estate transactions; and collective bargaining.
California Public Records Act
The California Public Records Act is a series of laws meant to guarantee that the public has access to public records of governmental bodies in California. In December of 2011, a Superior Court judge ruled that the California Assembly must also disclose budget records of individual lawmakers, after some California newspapers filed a lawsuit accusing legislators of flouting the state’s open records laws.
Public records in the California Public Records Act are defined as “any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics.” There is a separate category of “purely personal information” that, although it may be in the custody of a government agency, does not fall under the act. Statute 6255 states a catch all exemption, “The agency shall justify withholding any record by demonstrating that the record in question is exempt under express provisions of this chapter or that on the facts of the particular case the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.”
Anyone can request public documents in California, and a purpose does not have to be stated. The California Public Records Act does not regulate the use of records obtained from public agencies. One should allow 10 days for an agency to comply with a records request.
Calif. Public Records Act: Gov’t Code §6250-6268
Exempt: Law enforcement investigations: litigation; and proprietary business data and personal privacy.
Visit, California Sample FOIA Request, to view a sample FOIA request for the state.