Officials must comply with open meetings law

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 20, 2007

From time to time, it’s a good thing to give our elected officials – and the public – a reminder of the Alabama Open Meetings Law, passed in 2005.

There’s a lot of information in that law – but here’s a few key points.

First, meetings must be public.

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This means pre-arranged gatherings, meetings, including committee meetings, and those meetings that are not prearranged, but are held to “deliberate specific matters that, at the time of the exchange, the participating members expect to come before the body … at a later date.”

The only time a quorum can be together when it is not a public meeting is for social gatherings, training sessions or press conferences.

Second, notice must be given of a public meeting. There are exceptions for emergency meetings, but even those require some notice in advance.

For city councils, notice must be placed “on a bulletin board at a place convenient to the public in the city hall.”

For school boards, “notice must be placed on a bulletin board at a place convenient for public viewing in the central administrative office of the board.”

Third, while some matters – such as personnel decisions – can be discussed in an executive session, the governmental body must vote to go into executive session.

The body must say why they are going into the executive session.

“If the body goes into executive session to discuss privileged information, the body still must reconvene into an open meeting before voting on the ultimate issue discussed during the executive session,” according to the law.

We trust that all of our elected officials are complying with the state’s Open Meetings Law.