The Open Public Meetings Act, enacted in 1975 to increase government transparency, is a state law that requires a “public body” to follow certain procedures when it holds meetings to discuss or make decisions about issues that affect the public. The purpose of the act is to require decisions that affect the public to be made in public.
A public body is any government entity of more than two people that has the power to spend public funds or make decisions affecting the public by voting. Two examples of public bodies are a municipal council and a board of education. Government entities that only give advice, such as the courts, political parties, and municipal departments are not covered by the Open Public Meetings Act.
A meeting is a gathering (whether in person or “by means of communication equipment”) of the members of a public body, held to talk about, or make a decision about, a specific subject that relates to that public body’s mission. A majority of the members must attend the meeting; otherwise it is not covered by the Open Public Meetings Act.
What procedures does a “public body” have to follow before it holds a meeting?
A public body must give “adequate notice” before it holds a meeting, meaning a written notice that states the day, time, and location of the meeting and, if possible, the agenda of the meeting. The notice must be given at least 48 hours before the meeting and must be posted in at least one public place and also sent to two local newspapers. If a public body publishes a yearly schedule of regular meetings, notifications for individual meetings are not required. A public body must follow special procedures before it holds an “emergency meeting.”
What procedures does a “public body” have to follow during a meeting?
The meeting must be open to the public unless the public body is discussing certain topics including collective bargaining, lawsuits that the public body is involved in or may become involved in, or issues related to a public employee’s employment. The public body must create minutes of each meeting and must make them available to the public. Generally, a public body does NOT have to allow the public to participate at a meeting.
What procedures does a public body have to follow when it closes part of the meeting to the public?
Before a public body closes a meeting, or closes a part of the meeting, (goes into “executive session”), its members must pass a resolution that gives a general summary of what it will discuss and states when and how the discussion will be made public.
What can be done if the public body does not follow the requirements of the Open Public Meeting Act?
A person can challenge an action by a public body that did not follow the requirements of the Open Public Meeting Act by suing within 45 days of the action. A court can rule that the action is not valid (void). But the public body can then make the action valid by following the correct procedures under the Open Public Meetings Act and then acting again.
This information last reviewed: Apr 26, 2022