Open Meeting Law Violations
Public engagement is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy. Government transparency facilitates such engagement. Yet transparency does not just happen – it is created. Open meeting and public records laws require it. Together, the laws provide public access and the resulting accountability that ensures governments are acting in the public’s interest.
In the era of Covid-19, many states have relaxed their standards for open meeting laws and eliminated the requirement for in-person meetings. In doing this, many have attempted to maintain controls to ensure a degree of public access. We understand that the day-to-day functioning of governments cannot stop as a result of the crisis and such measures were important to keep that from happening. Read the Massachusetts Attorney General’s explanation about the Executive Order below.
Yet with the relaxed standards comes the risk of abuse. At Pioneer Institute, we want to give the public an opportunity to log instances of potential abuse and have created this hotline. We will make complaints public. Please complete the following form. Learn more about Pioneer’s work to promote open and accountable government.
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Executive Order Details
The Executive Order relieves public bodies from the requirement in the Open Meeting Law that meetings be conducted in a public place that is open and physically accessible to the public, provided that the public body makes provision to ensure public access to the deliberations of the public body through adequate, alternative means. “Adequate, alternative means” may include, without limitation, providing public access through telephone, internet, or satellite enabled audio or video conferencing or any other technology that enables the public to clearly follow the proceedings of the public body in real time. A municipal public body that for reasons of economic hardship and despite best efforts is unable to provide alternative means of public access in real time may instead post on its municipal website a full and complete transcript, recording, or other comprehensive record of the proceedings as soon as practicable afterwards.
In addition, all members of a public body may participate in a meeting remotely; the Open Meeting Law’s requirement that a quorum of the body and the chair be physically present at the meeting location is suspended.
All other provisions of the Open Meeting Law, such as the requirements regarding posting notice of meetings and creating and maintaining accurate meeting minutes, as well as the limited, enumerated purposes for holding an executive session, remain in effect.