Chapter 4.04


4.04.010  Goal.

4.04.020  Findings and purpose.

4.04.030  Fundamental rights.

4.04.040  Copies to be provided.

4.04.050  Definitions.

4.04.010 Goal.

It is the goal of this title to make it easier for people to access city government so that they may be more informed about what their city is doing and so that they may be involved in a more meaningful and knowledgeable way. Open meetings, easier access to public records, ethical guidelines and a watchdog commission will help increase the public trust and confidence in the city government and will increase the public awareness and knowledge about their government. A well-educated public and ethical officials are essential to good government. (Ord. 05-06 § 1).

4.04.020 Findings and purpose.

The city council finds as follows:

A. The Ralph M. Brown Act states: "The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them."

B. It is the city’s duty to serve the public and to accommodate those who wish to obtain information about or participate in the process of making decisions.

C. Elected city officials, commissions, boards, advisory bodies and other agencies of the city exist to conduct the people’s business. This title is intended to assure that the deliberations of these bodies and the city’s operations are open to the public.

D. This title is intended in part to clarify and supplement the Ralph M. Brown Act and the California Public Records Act to assure that the people of the city of Benicia can be fully informed and thereby retain control over the instruments of local government in their city.

E. This title is intended to list and implement fundamental rights of each member of the public. (Ord. 05-06 § 1).

4.04.030 Fundamental rights.

Fundamental rights of each member of the public include, but are not limited to:

A. The right to receive meaningful, advance notice of agendas and packets of all meeting materials.

B. The right to attend, listen to and participate in all meetings without cost, signup, giving name or address or any personal information.

C. The right to speak with a meaningful amount of time on every agenda item separately, including each consent item, closed session or any report items without being required to sign up, give his/her name, or address, or any other information.

D. The right to interrupt the body for a point of order or clarification except to the extent that it becomes unduly disruptive.

E. The right to speak on any subject not on the agenda so long as the subject relates to the business of the body.

F. The right to criticize the body or members for their official actions or inactions, during public comment or by holding signs except to the extent that it becomes unduly disruptive.

G. The right to pull consent agenda items for public review and discussion.

H. The right to comment on every agenda item either during the public comment period on that item, under the general public comment period or in writing.

I. The right to use presentation tools when commenting.

A plaque listing these rights will be placed at the entrance of the council chambers. These rights shall be read aloud by the presiding official to the public at the start of each meeting unless the rights are posted in the meeting room. If the rights are posted, the presiding officer may state the rights are posted instead of reading them. (Ord. 05-06 § 1).

4.04.040 Copies to be provided.

The office of the city attorney shall provide any person with a copy of the Brown Act or Public Records Act or this title without charge. (Ord. 05-06 § 1).

4.04.050 Definitions.

The following words and phrases, whenever used in this title, shall be construed as hereafter set out unless it shall be apparent from the context that they have a different meaning. Unless defined herein, the definitions in the Ralph M. Brown Act and the California Public Records Act and related laws shall govern.

A. “Agenda packet” means the nonconfidential portion of a body’s agenda-related materials. “Agenda packet” includes materials that:

1. Were distributed by the city to a majority of the members of a body prior to or at the meeting; and

2. Relate to an item on the agenda.

B. “Body” means:

1. The Benicia city council;

2. Any board, commission, task force or committee, which is established by city ordinance or by motion or resolution of the city council or created as a result of federal, state or local grants;

3. Any advisory board, commission or task force created and appointed by the mayor and approved by the city council; or

4. Any standing committee of any body specified in subsections (B)(1), (B)(2) or (B)(3) of this section.

“Body” shall not mean any congregation or gathering which consists solely of employees of the city of Benicia or consists of employees and representatives of companies providing employees’ benefits including, but not limited to, retirement and health care plans.

C. “Criticize” means to provide verbal or written critical comments, regarding the official actions or inactions, during public comment or by holding signs except to the extent that it becomes unduly disruptive.

D. “Days” means calendar days.

E. “Department” means a department of the city of Benicia.

F. “Information request facilitator” means the person who shall assist members of the public with their public information requests. For general requests, it means the city clerk in accordance with BMC 4.20.030(D). For department-specific requests, it means the department director or designee.

G. “Interrupt” means to stand and raise one’s hand and, in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order, wait for recognition by the presiding officer before speaking.

H. Meeting.

1. “Meeting” shall mean any of the following:

a. A congregation of a majority of the members of any body in which any item within its subject matter jurisdiction is heard, discussed or deliberated;

b. Any use of direct communication, personal intermediaries or communications media to cause a majority of the members of a body to become aware of an item of business and of the views or positions of other members with respect thereto, and to negotiate consensus thereon; and

c. Any meal or social gathering of a majority of the members of a body immediately before, during, or after a meeting of a body. For the purposes of this definition, “immediately before” means the four hours prior to a meeting.

2. “Meeting” shall not include any of the following:

a. Individual contacts or conversations between a member of a body and any other person;

b. The attendance of any number of the members of a body at a conference, or at any meeting or gathering organized to address a topic of local community concern and which is open to the public; provided, that a majority of the members of a body refrains from collectively discussing, other than as part of the scheduled program, the topic of the meeting or gathering or any other business within the subject matter jurisdiction of that body;

c. The attendance of any number of the members of any body at a purely social, recreational, educational or ceremonial occasion; provided, that a majority of the members of any body refrains from discussing any business within the subject matter jurisdiction of the body; and provided, that the gathering does not qualify as a meeting under subsection (H)(1)(c) of this section; and

d. The attendance of a majority of the members of a body at a standing committee; provided, that the members of the body who are not members of the standing committee do not participate personally or through representatives.

I. “Notice” means the posting of an agenda in a location that is freely accessible to the public 24 hours a day and as additionally specified in BMC 4.08.030, 4.08.050 and 4.08.060.

J. “Public information” means the content of “public records” as defined in the California Public Records Act (Government Code Section 6250 et seq.) whether contained in public records or in oral communications.

K. “Public official” means all elective officials and members of all official boards, commissions and committees of the city.

L. “Online” shall mean accessible by computer without charge to the user.

M. “The Public Records Act” shall mean Government Code Section 6250 et seq.

N. “Ralph M. Brown Act” shall mean Government Code Section 54950 et seq.

O. “Software or hardware failure” means solely technological failures of software or hardware that are unforeseeable. This term includes failures such as those caused by natural disasters or acts of God, and technical failures against which the city has taken customary precautions.

P. “Standing committee” shall mean any number of members of a body which totals less than a quorum and which has (1) a continuing subject matter jurisdiction, or (2) a meeting schedule fixed by charter, ordinance, resolution or formal action of the body.

Q. “Weeknight” shall mean after 5:00 p.m. on any day of the week except for Saturday or Sunday. (Ord. 07-22 § 1; Ord. 06-11 § 1; Ord. 05-06 § 1).