The public has greater access to public records now that the California Legislature has added requirements to the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state's open-meeting law.
Effective July 1, tax-supported agencies must specify on each meeting agenda the address where the public can review documents of the city, county, school district or special district.
That includes documents that comes to governing boards that receive them after the agenda was posted. The Brown Act requires that notices for regularly scheduled meetings be posted at least 72 hours in advance.
"My contention was that it was always required anyway," said Ann Cerney, a long-time Lodi activist.
Cerney noticed that the Lodi Public Library had more City Council documents than it's ever had before.
The cities of Lodi and Galt have designated the city clerk's office at City Hall to be the place for one-stop shopping when it comes to acquiring public documents.
However, San Joaquin County has not yet complied. Tuesday's Board of Supervisors agenda doesn't contain the location that houses public documents. County Counsel David Wooten said Tuesday that there was a miscommunication his office and the Clerk of the Board. The proper notation will be on next week's agenda, Wooten said.
Where public records can be foundCity of Lodi: City clerk's office, 221 W. Pine St.
City of Galt: City clerk's office, 380 Civic Drive.
San Joaquin County: Clerk of the board's office, county courthouse, seventh floor, 222 E. Weber Ave., Stockton.
- News-Sentinel staff
The legislation mandating the extra notice comes from Senate Bill 343, authored by State Sen. Gloria Negrete-McLeod, D-Montclair. The legislation is intended to address situations where local agencies receive correspondence from outside sources, often developers, after the agenda has been posted, said Jim Ewert, attorney for the California Newspaper Publishers Association.
The Brown Act requires that agendas be posted at least 72 hours before the meeting and that staff reports about each agenda item be available to the public at the same time as the governing board receives it. Exceptions include closed-session topics such as litigation and personnel.
Beginning July 1, correspondence received after the agenda has been posted but before the meeting, must be available to the public as well, according to the legislation. Any documents distributed to the governing board during the meeting must be available to the public at the same time.
The issue has been a bone of contention to residents within the North San Joaquin Conservation District, which doesn't have a Web site or office. Materials are at district Manager Ed Steffani's residence.
Steffani said Tuesday that the minutes of the last 10 years board meetings of the North San Joaquin district are now available at the Lodi Public Works Department.
Old materials are in cold storage, and more recent reports are at Steffani's house, he said.
But anyone who requests copies will be accommodated, Steffani said.
"We're not hiding anything," he said. "We don't have any money to have an office."