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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Open Meeting Law Proving Tricky For Board Of Alderman, But Great For Ward 5 Online!


On July 1st, 2010, the state-wide enforcement of the Open Meeting law was centralized in the Attorney General's office taking the control away from District Attorneys. Once centralized, changes were made and are continuing to be made to this law before it's scheduled October release.

Because the laws are already set, the Somerville Board of Alderman is currently playing by the rules, for example, by posting meeting times and agendas 48 hours in advance on the City's Meting Portal. This, of course, forces members to get their orders submitted earlier, however, it proves wonderful for writers (like me) to have an opportunity to bring agenda items to the public (like you) earlier.

When a quorum knows what a quorum thinks

Emailing was at the forefront of the conversation between the Board and the City Clerk. What is allowed: distribution of agendas, scheduling information or reports to be discussed at an upcoming meeting. What is not allowed: opinions by members, knowledge of who has supported/signed on to orders that includes a complete quorum. This also applies to committees and can be avoided by having the City Clerk obtain support as he is not a member of the "body" as defined by the law.

The members present began to go through different scenarios (as most governmental bodies are doing in the wake of this law), but the City Clerk referred back to his rule of thumb: When a quorum knows what a quorum thinks to alleviate any confusion.

Rules regarding executive session and minutes were also discussed and can be reviewed via the Open Meeting Law quick guide.

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