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Open-Meeting Law Exempts Symposiums

January 27, 2002

Re "Critics Question Legality of County Talks," Jan. 15:

For some time, Times editorial writers have been calling upon Orange County leaders to set aside differences and find ways to work together to solve the housing, transportation, and water quantity and quality problems facing this region.

Yet when 65 board and staff members from various county agencies recently attended an intensive two-day leadership symposium at the UCLA Conference Center at Lake Arrowhead, The Times did not applaud their efforts. Instead, its news story speculated that they might be violating the Brown Act at what had once been a yacht club.

The Brown Act is California's open and public meeting law. It requires that items intended for discussion by a public agency at a meeting be listed and described on an agenda, that the agenda be posted at least 72 hours in advance of the meeting, and that the public be given ample opportunity to comment on the items and to take part in their discussion.

The Orange County Leadership Symposium was announced in November, more than six weeks ago, and was open to the public. Facilitated by four internationally known consultants, it was designed to help participants develop the specific leadership skills, personal insights and professional relationships (both interpersonal and interagency) needed to encourage creative approaches and eventually result in the types of regional solutions The Times has wisely championed.

Conferences, seminars and symposiums are specifically exempted from provisions of the Brown Act (Section 54952.2(c)(2)). For this reason, it is especially unfortunate that, on what must have been a very slow news day, The Times chose to spend more than 22 column inches casting doubt on what was a legitimate first step in a process intended to yield lasting countywide benefit.

Sherri M. Butterfield

Mayor Pro Tempore

Mission Viejo

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