May two or more public bodies hold a joint meeting?
Yes, two or more public bodies may hold a joint meeting. However, each public body participating in the meeting must provide notice pursuant to G.L. c. 30A, § 20. The public bodies must provide independent notice of their meetings, or if posting a single notice, must clearly state that each public body will be meeting.
May a public body consider a topic at a meeting that was not listed in the meeting notice?
Yes, if it is a topic that the chair did not reasonably anticipate 48 hours before the meeting. If a meeting topic is proposed after the meeting notice is posted, the public body is encouraged to update its posting to provide the public with as much notice as possible of what subjects will be discussed during a meeting. Although a public body may consider a topic that was not listed in the meeting notice if unanticipated, the Attorney General strongly encourages public bodies to postpone discussion and action on topics that are controversial or may be of particular interest to the public if those topics were not listed in the meeting notice.
How specific must the listing of topics be in the meeting notice?
The listing of topics must contain enough specificity to give the public an understanding of each topic that will be discussed. It is not sufficient to list broad topic categories, such as "Old Business." For example, when the Chair of a Board of Selectmen reasonably anticipates a discussion about on-going traffic improvement projects in town at the next Board meeting, it would be appropriate for the Chair to list that topic in the notice as: "Discussion of Traffic Improvement Projects at the intersection of Main and Pleasant Streets; and at the intersection of Elm and Oak Streets." In some instances, there may be overlap in the posting requirements of the Open Meeting Law and other statutes. In most cases, the information required by the controlling statute will satisfy the Open Meeting Law meeting notice requirements, however for specific questions please contact the Division of Open Government.
May our public body list a section for "New Business" to cover topics which come up for the first time at the meeting in the meeting notice?
Yes, this category may be used for topics that the Chair did not reasonably anticipate for discussion when filing the meeting notice to be posted. Some public bodies use this to category for their public comment or open forum periods. The best practice would be to explicitly state in the notice that the time is being reserved for topics that the chair did not reasonably anticipate would be discussed.
What is the posting method for state public bodies?
State public bodies have different notice posting requirements than local public bodies. A state public body must post its meeting notice on its website or, if none exists, then the website of its parent agency. It must also submit a copy of the meeting notice to the Secretary of State's Regulations Division. It is not necessary to send meeting notices to the Attorney General, however, the public body must notify the Attorney General of the website location where its meeting notices will be posted.
Is it a violation of the Open Meeting Law for the Chair of a public body to neglect to inform other members of a meeting?
No, provided that the meeting is posted in accordance with the requirements of the Open Meeting Law. The Open Meeting Law requires that public bodies post meetings at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays, but the law does not include a requirement that the Chair notify other members of meetings. The best practice is for the Chair to notify all members of the public body of the meeting sufficiently in advance to allow members to make plans to attend but in no case later than 48 hours in advance of the meeting.
May a public body hold a meeting on a Sunday?
While the Open Meeting Law is silent with regard to holding public meetings on Sundays, the best practice is not to hold public meetings on Sundays or holidays when access to public buildings may be limited and when the public does not normally anticipate the scheduling of a public meeting.
If a public body holds a properly noticed meeting, and decides to continue the meeting until a future date, is the public body required to post another meeting notice?
Yes, the public body must treat the meeting as though it is a new meeting for purposes of notice posting. The public body must post the meeting 48 hours in advance and post a new meeting notice.
Will posting meeting notices on the municipal website fulfill the meeting notice requirements of the Open Meeting Law?
Yes, provided that website is the designated alternate posting method for the munciaplity and the meeting notice satisfies all the other requirements of the Open Meeting Law: 1) it is posted at least 48 hours in advance of the public meeting, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays; 2) it is displayed in a legible, easily understandable format; 3) it contains the date, time and place of the meeting; 4) it lists the topics that the Chair reasonably anticipates will be discussed at the meeting with sufficient specificity to advise the public of the issues the public body will discuss; and 5) the date and time that the notice was posted is conspicuously recorded on the notice. Public bodies are encouraged to coordinate with the municipal clerk, or the person designated by agreement with the municipal clerk, to ensure that meeting notices are filed sufficiently in advance of the meeting to allow the municipal clerk or the designee to post the meeting 48 hours in advance.
For example, if a Board of Selectmen plans to meet on a Monday night at 6:00 p.m. but the municipal clerk's office closes at 1:00 on Thursday, the Chair of the Board should plan to submit the notice for filing and posting in advance of 1:00 to allow the municipal clerk ample time to post the meeting notice. It is the public body's responsibility to ensure that the meeting notice is received for posting by the municipal clerk or the clerk's designee.
If a meeting notice for a regional public body is filed in all the towns in the region, with the exception of one, is the meeting notice posted adequately?
No, the meeting notice must be filed with the municipal clerk in each city and town within the district. As an alternative method of notice, a regional public body may post a meeting notice on the regional public body's website.
If a subcommittee of a public body holds a meeting and members of the public body, who are not members of the subcommittee, wish to attend the meeting, must the public body post a meeting notice?
No, as long as the public body does not engage in a deliberation. Members of a public body may wish to attend a meeting of a subcommittee of that public body, even where those members are not part of the subcommittee. In those cases, they may sit in the audience and participate as members of the public. They may address the public body with the permission of the chair, and may state their opinion on matters under consideration by the subcommittee. They may not discuss matters as a quorum, or discuss topics which are not under consideration by the subcommittee. Doing so would constitute a deliberation, and a separate meting notice for the public body would be required. The subcommittee convening the meeting must still post its regular meeting notice.