For Immediate Release - January 10, 2012

AG Coakley Proposes New Open Meeting Law Regulation

Proposed Regulation Would Define “Knowing” Violation of the Law

BOSTON – Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office is proposing a regulation that, if adopted, would clarify the standard for a finding by the AG’s Office of an intentional violation of the Open Meeting Law. The regulation would define the term “Knowing or Knowingly” used in the Open Meeting Law.  A public body that “knowingly” violates the Open Meeting Law is subject to a $1,000 fine per violation.  The proposed regulation was posted on the AG’s website on December 12, 2011 and published in the State Register on December 23, 2011.

An “intentional violation” of the Open Meeting Law, as defined under G.L. c. 30A, § 18, is “an act or omission by a public body or a member thereof, in knowing violation of the open meeting law.”  The proposed regulation would read as follows:

Knowing or Knowingly means acting with specific intent to violate the law, acting with deliberate ignorance of the law’s requirements, or acting in violation of the law where the public body or public body member has been informed previously by receipt of a decision from a court of competent jurisdiction or advised by the Attorney General that such conduct violates the law.  Where a public body or public body member has made a good faith attempt at compliance with the law, but was reasonably mistaken about its requirements, such conduct will not be considered a knowing violation of M.G.L. c. 30A, §§ 18 through 25.

A public hearing on the proposed regulation, to be included in 940 CMR 29.02, is scheduled for Thursday, January 19, 2012 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at One Ashburton Place, 21st Floor, Boston, MA.  The public is also encouraged to submit written comments on the proposed regulation.  Comments should be limited to the proposed regulation only.  Please direct comments to Amy Nable, Director, Division of Open Government, Office of the Attorney General, One Ashburton Place, 20th Floor, Boston, MA 02108, or by sending comments by email to openmeeting@state.ma.usComments must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. Thursday, January 19, 2012.

On July 1, 2010, the Attorney General’s Office assumed responsibility for enforcement of the Open Meeting Law with respect to local, regional, district, county and state public bodies.  Prior to that date, the state’s District Attorneys enforced the law as it pertains to local, regional, district and county public bodies.  Since July 1, 2010, AG Coakley’s Division of Open Government has responded to thousands of inquiries about the law’s requirements, conducted or participated in more than 50 trainings across the state, and issued dozens of determinations.  In October 2011, in an effort to provide greater transparency and access to the office’s decisions, all of the Attorney General’s Open Meeting Law determinations became available online through an interactive database, the Open Meeting Law Determination Lookup.

For more information, please visit the Open Meeting Law section of the Attorney General’s website.

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