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Decision-Making Occurs At Meetings

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Because of transparency requirements, virtually all of the conversations among a quorum of members of city councils, boards of supervisors and special district boards occur at public meetings.

This is also true for certain committees, commissions, and boards created by these governing bodies. The law strictly limits the circumstances under which conversations among elected and appointed officials may occur in private (known as “closed sessions”)

State law also requires notice of such meetings and that the agenda must be available for public review before the meeting.

At times, this may seem like a very cumbersome way to make decisions, particularly ones that seem insignificant, non-controversial, or not of great interest to the public.

However, it is important to remember the decision-making process is designed with an eye towards balancing a number of competing views.

Efficiency and speed are important, but in our democracy, public participation and transparency of government is paramount.

The open meeting laws are premised on the notion that transparency and the opportunity for public input are more important than speed.

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Pamphlet: The ABCs of Open Government Laws

This handy pamphlet provides a plain-language explanation of what decision-makers need to know about California’s transparency laws (the Brown Act and the Public Records Act).

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Understanding Transparency Laws

This piece explains California ethics laws relating to public agency transparency.

Designed for local officials, the material covers issues such as:

  • Disclosure of Sources of Income and Other Financial Interests
  • Disclosure of Campaign Contributions
  • Disclosure of Charitable Fundraising Activities
  • The Public’s Right to Access Records
  • Open Meeting Laws
  • The Public’s Right to Participate in Meetings

This piece is chapter four of a more extensive publication (Understanding the Basics of Public Service Ethics) that explains all California ethics laws.

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