Chantal M. Lovell, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/22/2011 05:47:10 PM PST

REDLANDS – City officials say they will continue to follow the transparency provisions of the Brown Act regardless of whether the state reimburses the city for doing so.

Traditionally, cities have been reimbursed by the state for the costs associated with adhering to the Ralph M. Brown Act, which the Legislature enacted in 1953 to ensure that government meetings and actions are made public.

In subsequent years, the act was modified to include the Open Meetings Act mandate, which requires local agencies to prepare and post agendas for public meetings, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. Later, the Brown Act Reform mandate was added, requiring matters discussed in closed session and decisions made there to be reported.

Local governments may receive reimbursement for the cost of preparing agendas, posting and printing agendas, closed-session meeting disclosures and training on the act, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

In the 2010-11 fiscal year, the Legislature suspended funding for the mandates.

In his proposed budget, Gov. Jerry Brown recommended continuing the suspension into the 2011-12 fiscal year, hoping to save the state an estimated $20 million.

Redlands Councilman Jerry Bean said it is unknown whether a lack of funding for the mandate means cities are still bound to abide by the act.

“The legislature decided not to fund those mandates for the Brown Act for this current fiscal year, so that calls into question whether the Brown Act is really in force,” Bean said.

According to a staff report prepared by Bean, the city has applied to the state for Brown Act reimbursement in the amount of $56,541 for the 2009-10 fiscal year. He said some things, such as producing an agenda, although reimbursable through the Brown Act, would still need to be done by the city regardless of state mandate or funding in order to conduct a meeting.

Bean said it is unclear whether there will be any reimbursement for 2010-11.

Regardless of whether the state reimburses the city, the City Council voted unanimously last week to continue to make meeting agendas and documents available to the public at least 72 hours before meetings and will make closed-session reports.

“Regardless of the funding of the Brown Act mandate, the Redlands City Council will follow the Brown Act,” Bean said while introducing the motion. “I’m sure we would anyway, but it never hurts to emphasize that.”

In the report, Bean said the act enables the public to keep tabs on its government and officials.

“The act has provisions addressing many different situations that arise in the conduct of local government,” the report reads. “All follow the general principle that the people have a right of timely access to information regarding the people’s business, including advance notice of matters to be considered by the legislative body of the local government.”

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, proposed a constitutional amendment that would require cities to provide notice of meetings whether the state pays them to do so or not.

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