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OML-AO-3568

December 26, 2002

The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the information presented in your
correspondence.

Dear

I have received your letter of December 14 and appreciate your kind words.

Your initial questions relate to the notice requirements imposed by the Open Meetings Law. Section 104 of that statute pertains to notice of meetings and states that:

"1. Public notice of the time and place of a meeting scheduled at least one week prior thereto shall be given to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at least seventy-two hours before each meeting.

2. Public notice of the time and place of every other meeting shall be given, to the extent practicable, to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at a reasonable time prior thereto.

3. The public notice provided for by this section shall not be construed to require publication as a legal notice."

In brief, if a meeting is scheduled at least a week in advance, notice of the time and place must be given to the news media and to the public by means of posting in one or more designated public locations, not less than seventy-two hours prior to the meeting. If a meeting is scheduled less than a week an advance, again, notice of the time and place must be given to the news media and posted in the same manner as described above, "to the extent practicable", at a reasonable time prior to the meeting. Although the Open Meetings Law does not make specific reference to special or emergency meetings, if, for example, there is a need to convene quickly, the notice requirements can generally be met by telephoning the local news media and by posting notice in one or more designated locations. Although §104 does not specify where notices of meetings must be posted, it requires that notice be "conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations." Consequently, I believe that a public body must designate, presumably by resolution, the location or locations where it will routinely post notice of meetings. To meet the requirement that notice be "conspicuously posted", notice must in my view be placed at a location that is visible to the public.

With respect to notice given to the news media, subdivision (3) of §104 specifies that a
public body is not required to pay to place a legal notice in a newspaper prior to a meeting. Notice must merely be "given" to the news media; whether a newspaper, for example, chooses to print notice of a meeting is within the discretion of its management. In my view, the State Legislature intended to ensure that the Open Meetings Law would not create financial hardship to public bodies or newspapers, and the provision indicating that notice of a meeting need not be legal notice is intended to ensure that public bodies should not have to pay place a legal notice in a newspaper prior to every meeting. In terms of the news media, in many instances, there may be hundreds of public bodies within the coverage area of a newspaper, and requiring a newspaper to print notices of meetings relating to perhaps dozens of meetings on a particular day would be financially burdensome.

In short, I do not believe that the Legislature intended to force public bodies to publish notice of their meetings or to require newspapers to publish notice of meeting.

Lastly, I agree that both the Open Meetings and Freedom of Information Laws should be
strengthened and made more meaningful for the public, and the Committee on Open Government continually attempts to do so. As you are likely aware, the Committee includes a series of legislative proposals in an annual report to the Governor and the State Legislature. A copy of the latest report is enclosed, and I hope that you find it to be interesting and constructive.

I hope that I have been of assistance.

Sincerely,

 

Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director

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