AG Coakley Announces Launch of New Web-Based Open Meeting Law Training Program as Part of “Sunshine Week”
Webinars Aim to Better Inform Public and Government Officials about Open Meeting Law
BOSTON – As part of “Sunshine Week,” Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today that, beginning in April 2014, her office will offer live web-based Open Meeting Law (OML) trainings to serve as a resource to public bodies and members of the public seeking to better understand the requirements of the law.
“These webinars are another way for our office to continue its efforts to educate people about the Open Meeting Law and its requirements,” AG Coakley said. “The trainings will offer a wealth of information on key topics and provide participants with an opportunity to ask questions of Division staff so they can better understand and follow the law.”
The free webinars will be offered on a monthly basis and will complement the AG’s in-person regional training program and online training video series. Attendees can participate entirely online and will be able to submit written questions during the training and receive real-time responses from Division attorneys. The first webinar will be held on Tuesday, April 8 from 9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Those interested in registering or receiving additional information about the webinars may do so by emailing OMLTraining@state.ma.us.
Upon assuming responsibility for enforcement of the OML, AG Coakley created the Division of Open Government (the Division) to ensure a continued and consistent focus on the law by educating individuals about the OML, enforcing the OML, and acting as a readily accessible resource for members of public bodies, members of the public, municipal officials, and the press.
“Local officials across the Commonwealth appreciate the importance and seriousness of the Open Meeting Law,” said Maureen Valente, Sudbury Town Manager and MMA representative on the Open Meeting Law Advisory Commission. “Municipal Officials are committed to working with the Attorney General’s Division of Open Government to ensure compliance with the law. The staff of the Division does excellent work educating the general public on the complexities of the law, and municipal officials and the MMA look forward to continuing to be of assistance in those efforts.”
Since assuming responsibility for training and enforcement of the OML, the Division has responded to more than 8,600 telephone and email inquiries from members of public bodies, municipal counsel, and the public, conducted nearly 100 trainings on the law across the state, and issued more than 400 written determinations, which can all be found on the OML Determination Lookup page.
The Division has created a host of resources intended to assist the public with understanding and complying with the OML. In 2012, AG Coakley’s Office added an online training video component to the resources available on her website. The video, titled “Open Meeting Law: Balancing Government Transparency with Government Efficiency,” is a narrated PowerPoint that can be found on YouTube and can also be accessed through the AG’s Open Meeting Law web page.
In 2013, the most frequently occurring violations of the OML were 1) insufficient meeting notices; 2) deliberation outside of a properly posted meeting, including email deliberation; 3) failure to follow appropriate procedures for entering executive session; 4) failure to respond properly to a request for open or executive session minutes; and 5) failure to follow the requirements of the OML complaint process.
The remedial actions most frequently ordered by the Division were: 1) immediate and future compliance with the OML; 2) attendance at a training on the OML or review of all or part of the Attorney General's online training video; 3) public release of documents, such as emails, used in deliberation outside of an open meeting; 4) creation or amendment of open or executive session minutes; and 5) public release of open or executive session minutes.
The AG’s Office will hold four in-person educational forums on the OML throughout the state during the months of March, April and May. The forums will be conducted by attorneys from the AG’s Division of Open Government and are open to the public. For more information or to register, please visit the OML Trainings webpage.
For more information on the Open Meeting Law, see the Attorney General’s Open Meeting Law webpage.
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