Monday, January 23, 2006

Open Meeting Law

The Fitchburg Sentinel and Enterprise has begun a series of articles called Secret Sessions--Doing Business Behind Closed Doors, the goal of which is to expose some of the challenges of the state's open meeting and freedom of information laws. "We pledge to champion you the readers during the next year to make sure the people who serve on boards or committees, along with other public officials, are conducting all their business in public. We'll also push state lawmakers to eliminate the exceptions to the Open Meetings law and to toughen the far too weak penalties officials face when they break the law. "

In the first of the series, published last week, Schools' secret session notes under wraps, the paper explains its request for minutes from past executive session meetings of the local school board. According to the article, "The Massachusetts Open Meeting Law allows public boards to meet privately about some issues. But the records may only remain secret as long as 'Publication may defeat the lawful purposes' of the session, according to the law. "

According to the League of Women Voters' A Guide to Open Meetings, "The Massachusetts statute has three distinct parts: (1) Chapter 30A, Sections IIA, IIA-1/2, 11B, and IIC; (2) Chapter 34, Section 9; and (3) Chapter 39, Sections 23A, 23B, and 23C of the General Laws of Massachusetts. These different chapters apply at the state, county, and local levels, respectively. " You can find a link to this and several other sources on Open Meetings at our Law About Open Meetings.