Legalities

February 9, 2018 - Volume 38 Issue 5

Legalities

Roger Hanshaw

By Cannon B. Hill, Esq.

Question: When can a county board of education convene a meeting canceled due to inclement weather? What procedures must a county board follow to notice the rescheduled meeting? 

While children rejoice at the announcement of schools closing because of snow, county board members must determine how to properly reschedule a board meeting cancelled because of inclement weather.

Nothing in West Virginia’s Open Meetings Act empowers a county board, when it cancels a meeting because of inclement weather, to just meet on the following evening. In this situation, a rescheduled regular meeting becomes a special meeting, as it is a non-emergency meeting occurring outside of the regular meeting schedule.

Because the rescheduled meeting is a special meeting, the Open Meetings Act requires the county board to give the public and news media advance notice of the rescheduled meeting and its purpose at least two business days before the new meeting date.

Further, the meeting notice must be posted in the manner and in the place or places required by the school board’s policy about the notice and posting requirements for special meetings. Remember, in counting business days for notice purposes, the day of the meeting, Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays are excluded.

The notice for the special meeting must also explain the meeting’s purpose. In this situation, the notice for the special meeting should explain that the regular meeting was cancelled due to inclement weather. The information contained in the agenda for the cancelled regular meeting should be included in the posted notice for the special meeting, along with any additional items the board will consider.

County boards should consider addressing, in their meeting policies, how regular meetings will be rescheduled in the event of inclement weather.

In Open Meetings Act Advisory Opinion 2004-02, issued on February 5, 2004, the Ethics Commission’s Open Meetings Committee concluded that a local government body complied with the Open Meetings Act by creating rules of procedure that provided regular meetings would be held on the third Tuesday of each month, and any regular meetings cancelled because of inclement weather would be rescheduled for the fourth Tuesday of each month. The local policy also directed that notice of a rescheduled meeting would meet the requirements for notice of a special meeting.

As a practical matter, a county policy or procedure might also address how the board will notify the public when a meeting is canceled because of inclement weather. For example, a county board could inform the public through its website and notices to the media, at the same time the board announces school are closed. Prompt notice of a meeting’s cancellation would surely be appreciated by people who might otherwise venture out into bad weather to attend a meeting, only to learn, upon arriving at the meeting location, that the meeting has been cancelled.

Editor’s Note: Hill is an attorney in the Charleston office of Bowles Rice LLP. A recent addition to the firm’s Education Law Group, she advises, represents, and conducts trainings for school districts, RESAs, and multi-county career and technical education centers. Prior to joining Bowles Rice, Hill for more than a decade practiced law, including school law, in Georgia.