How Well Does Your Board Follow the Open Meetings Act?
By Howard E. Seufer, Jr.
At the Association’s November Conference we discussed current legal issues with school board members from across the state.
From the questions raised and comments made, it seems that board members place a high priority on complying with the ever-changing state and federal laws.
One topic we had hoped to cover -- West Virginia’s Open Meetings Act – fell victim to the schedule.
With just a little more time, we would have advanced the following 10 characteristics of a county board that is in compliance with the Open Meetings Act.
How does your board measure up?
- The board has adopted a policy under which the date, time, place and agenda of all regularly scheduled meetings and the date, time place and purpose of all special meetings are made available, in advance, to the public and news media, except in the event of an emergency requiring immediate official action.
- If the board holds two or fewer regular meeting per month, it gives the public and news media at least three business days’ advance notice of the date, time, place and agenda of each regular meeting (not counting the day of the meeting). If it holds more than two regular meetings per month, it gives at least two business days’ advance notice of each regular meeting.
- If the posted agenda for a regular meeting is amended, the board gives at least two business days’ advance notice to the public and news media (not counting the day of the meeting). It does not thereafter amend the agenda except in the case of an emergency requiring immediate official action.
- The board gives at least two business days’ advance notice of the date, time, place and purpose of each special meeting (not counting the day of the meeting).
- Persons who desire to address the board at a regular or special meeting are not required to register for that purpose more than 15 minutes prior to the time when the meeting is scheduled to start.
- The agenda for a meeting never says that the board will go into executive session for any item. The decision to go into executive session is made only during the public portion of the very meeting where the executive session is held.
- No meeting is ever held solely as an executive session. Every meeting begins in public session and ends in public session.
- The board never goes into executive session for what is described merely as a “personnel matter.” Instead, the motion to go into executive session is specific enough to make clear that the board is not going into executive session to discuss a general personnel policy issue.
- Votes at board meetings are never taken by secret or written ballot, even when electing a president.
- The minutes of every regular and special board meeting are approved no later than the next regular meeting. The approved minutes are made publicly available no later than the close of business on the first business day following that meeting, except where material changes are needed to the draft minutes, in which case the approved minutes are made publicly available by the close of business on the third business day following that meeting.
Howard Seufer is WVSBA’s general counsel. He leads the Education Law Group at Bowles Rice LLP, http://www.bowlesrice.com/practices-Education-Law.html.