MAPC Wins Public Access Victory for Students of Fullerton College
MAPC was recently contacted regarding serious problems with the way the Associated Students of Fullerton College (ASFC), the student government organization of Fullerton College in Fullerton, California, was conducting its affairs.
The ASFC is an advisory body of the North Orange County Community College District (NOCCCD). As such, ASFC is subject to the Ralph M. Brown Act (Brown Act), commonly referred to as California’s open meeting law. After reviewing evidence provided by members of the public and conducting additional research, MAPC attorney Scott Franklin determined that ASFC was violating the Brown Act in several ways.
During public meetings of the ASFC, members of the public, including students, were often not allowed to comment on an issue until the end of the meeting (if at all), well after the issue had been voted on. Further, agendas for meetings were not posted in a location that was freely accessible to the public as the law requires. Furthermore, Mr. Franklin found evidence that “secret meetings” may have occurred, meetings that should have been held in public but were not. None of the conduct described above is in compliance with the Brown Act.
Mr. Franklin also discovered that the ASFC’s administrative advisor had apparently suggested to the ASFC Board of Directors (who conducted the ASFC meetings) that ASFC was not subject to the Brown Act’s requirements.
Because Mr. Franklin and MAPC are strong proponents of public participation, especially for students, MAPC provided pro bono assistance aimed at correcting the ASFC’s conduct.
MAPC sent a pre-litigation “Demand for Cure” letter to the NOCCCD, a prerequisite for filing a lawsuit under the Brown Act. Though NOCCCD was hesitant to admit that the conduct described in the Demand for Cure violated the open meeting law, the adage “actions speak louder than words” applies here. THe AFSC has changed its procedures and is now conducting meetings in compliance with the Brown Act.