Results 1 to 3 of 3

Thread: The Open Meeting Law

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Wayland MA
    Posts
    1,431

    Default The Open Meeting Law

    The Massachusetts Attorney General is tasked with overseeing the Open Meeting Law (OML). Information about this oversight, and about the law itself, is available on the AG's web site.

    A recent article in the Wayland Town Crier reports, "According to a press release from Coakley’s office, new regulations under the Open Meeting Law will allow remote participation in public meetings [by elected or appointed officials] in five situations: personal illness, personal disability, emergency, military service or geographic distance."

    The article goes on to note, "The law allows for audio or video conferencing to be used, provided that both the person participating remotely and everyone at the meeting can clearly hear each other. All votes taken at such a meeting must be roll-call votes. ... Remote participation cannot count towards a quorum. There must be a quorum of the members of the board of committee physically present in the room in order for a meeting to take place."

    The article isn't explicit as to whether remote participants may vote, but the AG's web site makes clear that they may [940 CMR 29.01, (4) (c)].

    The OML has changed over time. To accompany those changes, the AG has issued guidelines for interpretation, including in 1984, 1987, 1989, 1993, 2001, 2003, 2009, and 2010 (there may have been other instances as well).

    In the 2003 law and guidelines, I can find no mention of remote participation one way or the other. In the 2009 guidelines, I also found no mention. In the March 2010 guidelines, however, remote participation was explicitly prohibited. That prohibition was reversed as announced by the AG on November 18 of this year.

    What's not clear to me, however, is exactly how the AG has defined and defines "participation." Does participation mean simply joining in the conversation, or does it only apply to voting? Was participation of either sort explicitly prohibited except during the March-November "blackout window" this year? And was participation of the non-voting sort prohibited during this blackout window?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    448

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    What's not clear to me, however, is exactly how the AG has defined and defines "participation."
    According to Merriam-Webster:
    Definition of PARTICIPATION

    1: the act of participating
    2: the state of being related to a larger whole

    However, according to our Board of Selectmen, this :
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Wayland MA
    Posts
    1,431

    Default

    John, as I suspect that you know, a dictionary definition, while potentially useful in the absence of any other information, does not necessarily constitute a definition in a legal context. To be sure, the definition you provided, "The act of participating," is wholly useless for its self-referential nature.

    It would be extremely odd for the AG to prohibit ALL participation. For instance, anyone (including an official) could watch a meeting on television if that meeting is being shown live. So, the real question, I think, is whether remote speaking and/or voting by an official was allowed during the March-November "blackout window" or at other times in the past.

    I've written to the AG's office to learn what they have to say and will report back what I hear.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •