Sold Out Public Records & Open Meetings Conference Offers Survey of Existing Laws, Compliance Issues, and Current Developments.
By Chris Whitman*
Over 300 attorneys attended the Public Law Section’s sold-out, second annual California Public Records & Open Meetings Conference on May 30th in San Francisco. UC Hastings College of Law hosted the all-day conference that focused on California’s Public Records Act, Ralph M. Brown Act, and Bagley-Keene Act.
The Conference included nine sessions that addressed existing rules, compliance issues, developing case law, and proposed legislation. Keynote speaker Jeff Gottlieb, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times reporter, delivered an engaging account of how he used public records to break the story of the exorbitant salaries and benefits paid to City of Bell officials.
The conference opened with a panel discussion of issues commonly faced by lawyers advising public entities on California’s open meeting law requirements. Among other issues, the panel discussed the challenges posed by notice and agenda rules, conduct during closed sessions, leaks to the press, the benefits and pitfalls of technology, and best practices for email usage. Panelist Julie Biggs of Aleshire & Wynder, LLP, warned that attorneys advising public officials on open meeting laws must remain vigilant because "in the practice of democracy, anything that can happen, will happen." Also on the panel were Santa Rosa City Attorney Caroline Fowler and Ted Prim of the California Department of Justice.