BART directors vowed Thursday to stop holding secret closed-door committee meetings.
Responding to a Bay Area News Group editorial that said the meetings violated California's open meeting law, the BART board called for an overhaul of its committee meeting procedures as soon as possible.
"We need to change the way we do business immediately," BART Director Joel Keller, of Brentwood, said during the meeting in Oakland.
Other board members agreed, and called for a staff report in two weeks with details on how to correct the problem.
In the interim, all unnoticed board committee meetings are canceled immediately, BART Board President Bob Franklin announced.
The transit system provides public notice for some regular committee meetings that are held concurrently with board meetings; the board meets twice a month on Thursdays.
But BART gives no public access or notice of closed-door meetings by some 20 other committees focused on finance, capital planning, safety, sustainability and the drawing of new district boundaries.
In one closed meeting last month -- held with no public notice -- a committee discussed options for a ballot measure to levy $900 million on property or parcel taxes in Contra Costa, Alameda and San Francisco counties to help pay to replace BART's aging fleet of 669 rail cars.
A BART opinion poll discussed at that meeting suggested it would be difficult but not impossible to win two-thirds voter approval.
In a closed-door meeting more than a year ago, another board committee discussed whether to overhaul station parking fees to make motorists pay more during peak-use periods. The proposal went nowhere.
"We should start to notice some of these meetings" by posting agendas, said BART Director James Fang, of San Francisco.
Some committee meetings will remain closed for confidential items such as reviewing general manager candidates, Fang said.
BART officials had asserted up until now that ad hoc board committees are not subject to the open meeting requirements of the state law called the Brown Act.
But an open meeting law expert said that many BART board committees do not qualify as ad hoc because they weren't set up to accomplish a given task in a set amount of time.
"The question is what is the task to be done, and what is the date to report back," said Terry Francke, general counsel for Californians Aware, a group that advocates for people's right to know about government.
Francke said he is concerned there may be a growing trend among cities and perhaps other local agencies of creating so-called ad hoc committees to shut out the public.
It's hard to assess the extent of the problem because the committees don't announce meetings, he said. "Once these committees are created, the public often doesn't have a way to find out what they're doing."
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267.