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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Public Body Violated OMA by Meeting in Private Home

As I noted in yesterday's post about the 2012 PAC opinions to-date, the PAC recently issued a binding opinion in response to an Open Meetings Act complaint. 

PAC Opinion 12-008 (Open Meetings Act)

On December 21, 2011, a school district board conducted a special meeting at the private home of the school superintendent to consider the annual tax levy.  Notice of the meeting and its location were posted on the district's website, at the district's office, and at the middle school where the district's meetings were usually held.  The superintendent stated that the meeting was held at the private residence because the custodians had worked during the day and the school building would be closed that evening.  The superintendent also noted that the meeting was open to the public.  At the meeting, the district board adopted the annual tax levy.  A complaint was subsequently filed with the PAC challenging the meeting and the legality of the tax levy. 

The PAC first noted that the OMA requires that meetings be at times and places that are "convenient and open to the public."  Since the OMA does not define convenient or open, the PAC consulted the dictionary and determined that open means "not restricted to a particular group or category of participants" and convenient means "suitable" or "proper."  Second, the PAC found that the district complied with the OMA notice requirements.  Third, the PAC found that there was no indication that the district intended to prevent the public from attending the meeting or that the meeting was not open to the public.  However, the PAC concluded that a private residence is "ill-suited" for a public meeting and could deter members of the public from attending.  As a result, the PAC determined that the district violated the OMA by conducting the meeting at a private residence and directed the district to conduct future meetings in full compliance with the OMA. 

It is interesting to note that the PAC did not address the complainant's challenge to the legality of the district's tax levy adopted at the meeting that violated the OMA.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink.


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