How the City Council Sets the Agenda – Part 2

By Gerrie Schipske, Public Advocate

Putting the Agenda Together

The City Council agenda is mostly determined by the city clerk, the city manager, his department heads, and members of the City Council. From time to time, the city auditor and city attorney may place items on the agenda for discussion and approval by the City Council. Much of the agenda includes routine items necessary to keep the city operating.

The city clerk prepares, in consultation with the mayor, city manager, and city attorney, an agenda for each meeting of the City Council, specifying the time and place of the meeting, and setting forth a brief general description of each item of business to be considered by the City Council at such meeting.

Each week before the council, the city manager meets with the mayor and each of the council members separately to discuss what is being placed on the agenda. The city manager is forbidden from “polling” councilmembers to determine how they will vote on an agenda item. Councilmembers are also forbidden from contacting other councilmembers, which together would constitute a majority, to determine how they will vote at a council meeting.

Examples of this include Information communicated to a quorum through a series of contacts, individuals phone calls (“daisy chain”), or a third person (“spoke and wheel”) to evade the public is a “meeting” (§54952.2(a)(2); 63 Opps. Atty. Gen. 820 (1980); Stockton Redevelop Agency, 171 CA 3d 95 (1985); Common Cause v. Stirling, 147 CA 3d 518 (1983).

All agenda items are placed on the agenda and prepared pursuant to the requirements of the Ralph M. Brown Act (California Government Code Sections 54950 et seq.).

D. Scheduling. The city clerk is hereby empowered to and shall endeavor, in consultation with the city manager, to schedule sufficient time between public hearings and other scheduled business matters such that the public is not kept unduly waiting, and the City Council will have sufficient time to review necessary materials, hear testimony, and deliberate matters among themselves.

E. Posting. The resultant final agenda for each regular meeting shall be posted at least 72 hours prior to the meeting in accordance with the Ralph M. Brown Act (California Government Code Sections 54950 et seq.).

The city clerk shall maintain a record of such posting as contained in the posting statement.

F. Availability of Agenda Materials. The City Clerk shall post the agenda, agenda materials and supplemental agenda materials on the city’s agenda webpage. Any interested person may request copies of agenda reports by contacting the city clerk and paying the established rate of reproduction, as provided by the City Council by resolution, or may make copies on their own from the agenda materials posted on the city’s agenda webpage or from those copies found at the central library.

G. Advance Distribution of Documentation for Major Matters. Documentation prepared relating to major policies, that may be associated with or supporting discussion items, public hearings, or ordinances, which have attracted or are prospectively believed to attract significant public attention and interest, should be 6 distributed, whenever possible, at least one week in advance to allow for public dissemination and encourage public comment. This excludes agenda reports and presentation materials, which will be prepared and disseminated to the public in accordance with the Brown Act.

Consent Agenda/Calendar

A consent agenda groups routine meeting items into a single agenda item. The City Council makes one motion to approve all items listed under the Consent Calendar.

A council person can remove an item from consent so it can be discussed and voted on separately.

Closed Session

A Closed Session can be called by the City Council when it is necessary to discuss an item(s) not open to the public. These are limited to pending and existing litigation, real estate negotiations and personnel issues, and are governed by The Brown Act. If the council acts in a Closed Session, that action must be disclosed immediately upon returning to the open session.

Conducting a Council Meeting

The mayor is the presiding officer during a council meeting. In her absence, the vice mayor will conduct the meeting pursuant to Robert’s Rules of Order. Under the City Charter, both the city attorney and the city manager are required to attend the council meeting. The city clerk records the discussion and votes on agenda items and posts them to Legistar, a software system for local government:

Rules of Public Engagement

The right to participate in local government public meetings is guaranteed by the Brown Act. The public can comment during every item on the council agenda and at a separate time for issues, not on the agenda. It is legal for a city council to limit the time for individual and group public comment. If you have concerns about public involvement not being fully granted, you can contact the First Amendment Coalition.

Gerrie Schipske, RNP/JD
(562) 201-1296


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