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“If the broad light of day could be let in upon men’s actions, it would purify them as the sun disinfects”
SUPREME COURT JUSTICE LOUIS D. BRANDEIS
The Ralph M. Brown Act, was an act of the California State Legislature, authored by Assembly member Ralph M. Brown and passed in 1953, that guaranteed the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies.
The Brown Act, originally a 686 word statute that has grown substantially over the years, was enacted in response to mounting public concerns over informal, undisclosed meetings held by local elected officials. City councils, county boards, and other local government bodies were avoiding public scrutiny by holding secret “workshops” and “study sessions.” The Brown Act solely applies to California city and county government agencies, boards, and councils. The current Brown Act may be found here and the AB1234 act on ethics may be found here.
The introduction to the Brown Act describes its purpose and intent:
In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly. The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.