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Monday, June 24, 2024

PAC Issues 7th Binding Opinion on OMA Complaint

In PAC Op. 24-007, the Public Access Counselor of the Attorney General's Office (PAC) reviewed and considered a complaint that a public body violated the OMA. Specifically, the complainant alleged that a village board violated the OMA by (1) improperly taking final action to authorize the purchase of a truck without listing that item on the agenda and (2) allowing a member of the village board to attend several board meetings electronically. 

With respect to the first claim, the PAC found the village board in violation of the OMA for not sufficiently describing the purchase of a vehicle on the meeting agenda. The PAC noted that the village board voted on the purchase under the agenda item "Report from the Superintendent of Public Works," after the Superintendent informed the board that he had found a used truck that the board could purchase. The PAC determined that voting on this purchase without adequately describing it on the meeting agenda violated section 2.02(c) of the OMA  meeting which requires that any "agenda required under this Section shall set forth the general subject matter of any resolution or ordinance that will be the subject of final action at the meeting." (note that the opinion is not clear whether the purchase of the vehicle was made pursuant to an ordinance or resolution, although the PAC has taken a very broad interpretation of this statutory provision in past opinions). In any event, the PAC acknowledged that because the village board re-voted on the vehicle purchase at a subsequent meeting where it was listed on the meeting agenda, no further action was necessary to remedy the violation.

In the second claim, the individual who filed the complaint claimed that the board member "purposefully took a job that requires him to be out of town" and since the job was within an hour's drive of the meeting location, the board member should not be allowed to attend board meetings remotely. The PAC disagreed, finding that one of the reasons under the OMA that allows a board member to attend a meeting remotely is for "employment purposes" and the OMA includes no limiting language on the nature or frequency of a member's ability to attend meetings remotely for employment purposes so long as the board authorizes remote attendance in accordance with its adopted rules. The PAC also noted that the OMA does not condition remote attendance for employment purposes on a board member demonstrating that it would not be feasible to commute to the meeting. As a result, the PAC determined that the board did not violate the OMA by allowing the board member to attend meetings remotely for employment purposes.


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