Attorney General Maura Healey issues new Open Meeting Law guide



Last modified: Saturday, March 21, 2015

NORTHAMPTON — Attorney General Maura Healey has issued an updated version of the state’s Open Meeting Law guide that reflects newly enacted laws and information about recent decisions regarding the law’s requirements.

The release of the new guide was timed to coincide with “Sunshine Week,” a national, nonpartisan initiative that highlights the importance of open government and the public’s right to know. The guide is available on the attorney general’s website at www.mass.gov/ago/government-resources/open-meeting-law/.

“The Open Meeting Law Guide is one of many resources our office provides to help educate people about the law and its requirements in order to ensure clarity and compliance,” Healey said in a statement. “The additions to this guide, including guidance from previously issued decisions from our office, further our efforts to promote the pillars of the law: good governance and transparency.”

The revised guide adds new information about recent decisions on the level of detail required in meeting notices, the public’s right to record open meetings, the approval of meeting minutes, and the release of executive session minutes. It also includes information about new laws on remote participation by members of local commissions on disability and discussions by local officials about the recess and continuance of Town Meeting.

Created in 2010, the Attorney General’s Division of Open Government serves as an educational resource about the Open Meeting Law for the public, members of government and the news media. It also enforces the law.

Since July 2010, the division has responded to more than 10,400 telephone and email inquiries, conducted 25 regional trainings on the law and issued 575 written determinations, including 155 decisions in 2014.

The most frequent violations were insufficient meeting notices; deliberation outside of a properly posted meeting, including by email; failure to follow procedures for entering a closed, or executive, session; insufficiently specific or inaccurate meeting minutes; and failure to follow the requirements of the law’s complaint process.

Nine public bodies in Hampshire County were the subject of Open Meeting Law complaints in 2014. Of those, three — the Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee, the South Hadley Electric Light Department’s Board of Commissioners and the Hampshire Council of Governments Executive Committee — were found to have violated the law.

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.




 


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