The new online agenda posting requirements Assembly Bill 2257 added to the Ralph M. Brown Act apply to all meetings of local public agency legislative bodies held on or after January 1, 2019.
The Brown Act currently requires – with certain limited exceptions – meetings of legislative bodies of local public agencies to be open to the public. To assure transparency and provide an opportunity for public participation in such meetings, the Brown Act also imposes agenda posting rules, including requiring those local public agencies that maintain an internet website to post agendas online. These rules apply to meetings of, for example, city and town councils, boards of supervisors, planning commissions, special district boards of directors and school boards.
AB 2257, enacted by the State Legislature in 2016, amended Government Code section 54954.2 to ensure that members of the public have easy and quick access to legislative body agendas posted online. Public agencies that maintain an internet website may meet the requirements of AB 2257 in two different ways.
Under the first option, a public agency may post a direct link to the current agenda of a legislative body meeting on the agency’s primary homepage. The link may not be hidden in a “contextual menu” (a dropdown menu) but it may be accessible through both a contextual menu and a visible direct link.
Alternatively, where a legislative body maintains an “integrated agenda management platform” – a separate webpage dedicated to providing the legislative body’s agenda information – the current agenda may be accessible from the integrated agenda management platform rather than from a direct link on the agency’s primary homepage if all of the following conditions are satisfied:
- A direct link to the legislative body’s integrated agenda management platform (the dedicated agenda information webpage) must be on the agency’s primary homepage. Once again, the direct link may not be hidden in a contextual menu.
- When the direct link to the integrated agenda management platform is clicked from the agency’s homepage, the link must take the user directly to an internet website with the agendas of the legislative body.
- Although the integrated agenda management platform may contain agendas of prior meetings of the legislative body, the current agenda must be the first agenda available at the top of the integrated agenda management platform.
Under either option, AB 2257 requires all current online agenda postings to be:
- Downloadable, retrievable, indexable, and electronically searchable by commonly used search applications;
- Machine readable and platform independent; and
- Available to the public free of charge and without any restrictions that would impede the reuse or redistribution of the agenda (i.e., no restrictions on printing the agenda or attaching it to an email).
AB 2257 does not provide further guidance about how public agencies satisfy these standards. We recommend that agencies construe the requirements broadly to further the bill’s purpose of providing easy public access to legislative body meeting agendas posted online.
The same enforcement remedies are available for violations of AB 2257’s new online posting requirements that are available for other types of Brown Act violations. In general, remedies include invalidation of certain types of actions taken by a legislative body that do not substantially comply with the Brown Act, injunctive or declaratory relief, attorney’s fees and litigation costs awarded to successful plaintiffs, and, in narrow circumstances where a violation is determined to be willful, criminal penalties.
For those local public agencies that have not done so already, we recommend that staff work with the agency’s IT department in coming weeks to assure compliance with the new online agenda posting requirements for meetings of legislative bodies held on or after January 1.