What is Open Meeting Law?

The open meeting law, also known as the “sunshine law,” is a set of laws that ensure that meetings of public bodies are open and transparent to the public. These laws vary by state, but generally, they require that meetings of government agencies, boards, and commissions be held in public, with advance notice provided to the public. The purpose of the open meeting law is to promote government transparency and accountability, by ensuring that the public has the opportunity to observe and participate in the decision-making processes of their government.

The open meeting law applies to all meetings of public bodies, whether in person or by electronic means such as video conferences. It requires that notice of the meeting be provided in advance and that the meeting be open to the public (unless it falls under a specific exemption). Exemptions to the open meeting law may include meetings held for the purpose of discussing sensitive or confidential information, such as personnel matters or legal advice.

The open meeting law requires that a record of the meeting be kept, which may include minutes, audio recordings, or video recordings. This record is typically made available to the public upon request.

The open meeting law serves as an important check on government power, as it allows the public to hold public officials accountable for their actions and decisions. It also promotes transparency and trust in government, by ensuring that the public has access to information about how their government is operating and making decisions.

Violations of the open meeting law can result in fines, legal action, and other consequences, depending on the state and the severity of the violation. It is important for public bodies to be aware of and comply with the open meeting law in order to avoid such consequences.

There are a few exceptions to the open meeting law, such as executive sessions, which are closed meetings held for the purpose of discussing sensitive or confidential information. However, these exceptions are strictly limited and must be narrowly tailored to the specific purpose of the executive session.

In summary, the open meeting law is a set of laws that ensure that meetings of public bodies are open and transparent to the public, with the goal of promoting government transparency and accountability. It requires that notice of the meeting be provided in advance, that the meeting be open to the public, and that a record of the meeting be kept. Violations of the open meeting law can result in legal consequences, and it is important for public bodies to be aware of and comply with these laws.