Open Meetings FAQs
What Is the Open Meeting Act?
The Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act was passed into law in 1967 by the California Legislature. The Open Meeting Act creates specific rules to govern the conduct of government meetings. The Act is an effort to increase the ease with which members of the public may participate in discussions, deliberations, and decisions on official matters. Under the Act the public has the right to:
- Receive notice at least ten days in advance of all meetings at which a majority of Commissioners attend to conduct the Energy Commission's business.
- Receive a copy of the agenda containing a short description of each item of business to be discussed at the meeting.
- Speak on each agenda item before action is taken.
California Government Code Sections 11120, 11123, 11125, 11125.7
How is a meeting defined under the Open Meeting Act?
A meeting is any congregation of a majority of the members of a state body at the same time and place to hear, discuss, or deliberate upon any item that is within the jurisdiction of the state body. Thus, any meeting of three or more commissioners of the Energy Commission to discuss any matter governed by the Commission is a meeting subject to the requirements of the Open Meeting Act.
California Government Code Section 11122.5
Does the Open Meeting Act apply to the Energy Commission?
Yes. The Open Meeting Act is the controlling law on meetings held by all state boards, commissions, and multimember bodies of the State of California. Because the Energy Commission is a commission of the State of California, created by statute and required by law to conduct official meetings, it must follow the requirements of the Open Meeting Act.
California Government Code Sections 11121(a), 11123(a)
How can I receive notice of a meeting and what information will this notice contain?
The Energy Commission provides notice of its business meetings to any person who requests that notice either in writing or by registering online. Notice is also provided via Internet e-mail at least 10 days in advance of the meeting and includes the name, address, and telephone number of the contact person who can provide further information on each agenda item. The written notice also includes the address [URL] of the Internet website where the notice is available. A notice of a business meeting of the Energy Commission includes a specific agenda for the meeting and a brief description of the items of business to be transacted or discussed in either an open or closed session. Any person may request, and will be provided, notice for all business meetings of the Energy Commission or for only those specific meetingsthey may request.
California Government Code Section 11125
Will I ever be charged a fee when requesting notice?
No. The Energy Commission does not charge a fee for providing a notice.
California Government Code Section 11126.7
When can a member of the public address the Commission during a meeting?
The Energy Commission provides an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the Commission on each agenda item during the Commissioner's discussion or consideration of the item. Every notice for a special meeting at which action is proposed to be taken on an item provides an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the Commission concerning that item prior to action on the item.
California Government Code Section 11125.7
Are there any requirements to attending a meeting?
The Open Meeting Act prohibits the Commission from requiring a person to register his or her name, provide other information, complete a questionnaire, or otherwise fulfill any condition precedent to his or her attendance. Any attendance list, register, questionnaire, or other similar document is voluntary, and all persons may attend the meeting regardless of whether a person signs, registers, or completes the document.
California Government Code Section 11124
Are meetings conducted by the Energy Commission accessible to disabled persons?
Yes. All meetings of the Energy Commission comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
California Government Code Section 11123.1
How can I view a meeting's minutes?
The Energy Commission keeps a record of topics discussed and decisions made at its business meetings in a minute book. Minutes can be viewed on-line at the Energy Commission website. Transcripts of past meetings are also available online.
California Government Code Section 11126.1
How does the Open Meeting Act apply to meetings undertaken through teleconference?
If the Energy Commission chooses to conduct a meeting by teleconference, the Open Meeting Act requires agendas to be posted at all teleconference locations and all teleconference meetings be conducted in a manner that protects the rights of any party or member of the public appearing before the Commission. Each teleconference location must be identified in the notice and agenda of the meeting and each location must be accessible to the public. Members of the public have the opportunity to address the Commission at each teleconference location. At least one Commissioner must be physically present at the location specified in the notice.
California Government Code Section 11123
Can I record a meeting?
Any person attending an open and public meeting of the Energy Commission has the right to record the proceedings with a tape recorder or a camera (still and video). This right however, only exists to the extent that the recording can continue without noise, illumination, or an obstruction of view that constitutes, or would constitute, a persistent disruption of the proceedings. The Energy Commission has the authority to cease a recording upon a reasonable finding of such a disruption.
California Government Code Section 11124.1
Will the Energy Commission record a meeting?
Any tape or film record of an open and public meeting made for whatever purpose by or at the direction of the Energy Commission is subject to public inspection pursuant to the California Open Meeting Act (California Government Code Section 6250). The recordings are only required by law to be kept for thirty-days and may be erased or destroyed thirty-days after the taping or recording. Any inspection of an audio or video tape recording is provided without charge and an audio or video tape player will be made available by the Energy Commission. Transcripts of all meetings are available online at the Commission website.
California Government Code Section 11124.1
Are there any fees associated with viewing these records?
Although there is no fee to view a record, there is a nominal fee charged to cover the costs associated with copying the record.
California Government Code Sections 6253(b), 11125.1 (e), 11126.7
What is the procedure for adjourning a meeting?
The Commission may adjourn any meeting to a time and place specified in the order of adjournment. If all members are absent from a meeting, the clerk or secretary of the Commission may declare the meeting adjourned to a stated time and place and he or she will give written notice of the adjournment. A copy of the order or notice of adjournment is then posted on or near the door of the place where the meeting was held within 24 hours after the time of the adjournment.
California Government Code Section 11128.5
What is the procedure for ordering a continuance?
The Commission may by order or notice postpone any meeting to any subsequent meeting of the Commission. A copy of the order or notice of continuance is then posted on or near the door of the place where the hearing was held within 24 hours after the time of the continuance; provided, that if the hearing is continued to a time less than 24 hours after the time specified in the order or notice of hearing, a copy of the order or notice of continuance of hearing will be posted immediately following the meeting at which the order or declaration of continuance was adopted or made.
California Government Code Section 11129
Under what conditions can the Energy Commission discuss items of business that did not appear upon the posted agenda?
The Energy Commission may take action on items of business not appearing in the posted agenda only under either of the following two conditions:
- Upon a determination by a two-thirds vote by the Commissioners, or, if less than two-thirds of the Commissioners are present, a unanimous vote of those present, that there exists a need to take immediate action and that the need for action came to the attention of the Energy Commission after the agenda was posted, or:
- Upon a determination by a majority vote of the Commissioners that an emergency situation exists.
- In such event the Energy Commission must call all newspapers, radio, and television stations that have requested notice and notify them of the emergency meeting at least an hour in advance. The Commission must also post the notice on the Internet as soon as practicable after the decision to call the emergency meeting has been made.
- An emergency situation is a:
- Work stoppage or other activity that severely impairs public health, safety, or both.
- Crippling disaster that severely impairs public health, safety, or both.
California Government Code Sections 11125.3, 11125.5
How are closed sessions held?
Prior to holding any closed session, the Commission will disclose, in an open meeting, the general nature of the item or items to be discussed in the closed session. The disclosure may take the form of a reference to the item or items as they are listed by number or letter on the agenda. In a closed session, the Commission may only consider those matters covered in its disclosure. After any closed session, the Commission reconvenes into opensession prior to adjournment and makes any reports, provides any documentation, and makes any other disclosures of action taken in closed session.
California Government Code Sections 11126.3
What is a "special meeting?"
A special meeting may be called at any time by the presiding Commissioner of the Energy Commission or by a majority of the Commissioners of the Commission, but only for one of the following purposes when compliance with the 10-day notice requirement would impose a substantial hardship on the Energy Commission or where immediate action is required to protect the public interest:
- To consider "pending litigation".
- To consider proposed legislation.
- To consider issuance of a legal opinion.
- To consider disciplinary action involving a state officer or employee.
- To consider the purchase, sale, exchange, or lease of real property.
- To consider license examinations and applications.
- To consider action on grants or loans for low income housing.
- To consider its response to a confidential final draft audit report by the Bureau of State Auditors
California Government Code Section 11125.4
How is a special meeting called?
When a special meeting is called the Energy Commission provides notice of the special meeting to all parties that have requested notice as soon as is practicable after the decision to call a special meeting has been made. Notice is delivered to newspapers, radio, and television stations at least 48 hours before the time of the special meeting. Notice is also made available on the Internet. The notice specifies the time and place of the special meeting and the business to be transacted. The written notice additionally specifies the address of the Internet website where the notice is made available. The Commission may not consider any business except that which was contained in the Notice.
At the commencement of any special meeting, the Energy Commission must make a finding in open session that the delay necessitated by providing notice 10 days prior to a meeting would cause a substantial hardship on the Commission or that immediate action is required to protect the public interest. The finding must be adopted by a two-thirds vote of the Commission, or, if less than two-thirds of Commissioners are present, a unanimous vote of those members present. The finding shall be made available on the Internet. Failure to adopt the finding terminates the meeting.
California Government Code Sections 11125.4(b) & (c)
Are there penalties for violating the Open Meeting Act?
Yes, penalties exist for violations but depend upon whether the violation was negligent or accidental.
What are the penalties for negligently violating the Open Meeting Act?
So long as a member of the Commission attending a meeting in violation of any provision of the Open Meeting Act does not do so with the intent to deprive the public of information to which that member knows or has reason to know the public is entitled, that member is not liable for the violation and is not subject to any penalties. However, with any violation of the Open Meeting Act the Attorney General, the District Attorney, or any interested person may commence an action in court seeking an injunction to prevent said violation or for the purpose of obtaining a judicial determination that an action taken by the Commission is null and void under the Open Meeting Act. Any action seeking such a judicial determination must be commenced within 90 days from the date the action was taken.
California Government Code Sections 11130, 11130.3, 11130.7
What are the penalties for willfully violating the Open Meeting Act?
Each member of the Commission who attends a meeting in violation of any provision of the Open Meeting Act with the intent to deprive the public of information to which that member knows or has reason to know the public isentitled, is guilty of a misdemeanor and may receive up to one year in jail. In addition, the remedies available for a negligent violation also apply in the instance of a willful violation.
California Government Code Section 11130.7
Can I recover costs associated with bringing a suit?
A court may award court costs and reasonable attorney's fees to a successful plaintiff where it is found that the Energy Commission has violated the provisions of the Open Meeting Act. However, a court may award court costs and reasonable attorney's fees to the Energy Commission in any action brought where the Commission has prevailed in a final determination of the action and the court finds that the action was clearly frivolous and totally lacking in merit.
California Government Code Sections 11130.5
NOTICE: Distributed by the Public Adviser's Office. This is for informational purposes only. It is designed to assist you in understanding the process. It is, therefore, general in nature and does not discuss all exceptions and variations.
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