|A state or local board or commission in Vermont meets
when a quorum (majority) of its members comes together to discuss public business. Two
members of a five-person board may meet without the need for public notice. 1 V.S.A. §
310(2). The entire board can meet by itself without notice or public attendance when it
deliberates on its written decision, following a quasi-judicial hearing on an application
or permit. The board may also exclude the public from a proper executive session. But
these are the exceptions. Most meetings are public.
and subcommittees of public boards
must follow the law, just as the full board itself.
That means there must be public notice, an opportunity for members of the public to speak
to the board, and written minutes, which the law requires to be ready for review within
five days of the meeting. Meetings held without respecting the details of the law are
illegal, and the courts regard what is done in those meetings as voidable. More
importantly, illegal meetings are an offense to democracy. In Vermont, the people rule,
sometimes directly, sometimes through elected or appointed representatives, but always
with the benefit of public scrutiny.
|The Open Meeting law is based on Article 6 of the Vermont
Constitution. Article 6 guarantees that "all power being originally inherent in and
consequently derived from the people, therefore, all officers of government, whether
legislative or executive, are their trustees and servants; and at all times, in a legal
way, accountable to them."
|One way of demonstrating
accountability is conducting
public business in public, for everyone to see.
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