|Every meeting needs minutes. The open meeting
law requires minutes to include the result of all votes, all motions (including those that
fail), and the names of all persons participating in the meeting. Minutes must be
available for review and copying within five days of the meeting, even if the board has
not yet approved them. 1 V.S.A § 312 (b). Minutes are the permanent record of the
boards actions. They should be of interest to anyone planning to appear before a
board with a proposal, to understand the boards process and precedents. Copies are
available through the clerk of the board. Those interested may review minutes of former
meetings on request, and obtain copies at the actual photocopying cost.
|Members of the public have rights to enforce violations of
the law in superior court. The law provides that these courts must schedule hearings of
such violations as soon as the docket allows it, allowing swift resolutions of disputes.
Courts may fine the town or order the board to follow the law. The Attorney General is
also authorized to prosecute violations. 1 V.S.A. § 314.
are rare in Vermont. When they happen, the media is quick to cover the story. People take
open meetings seriously here.
The open meeting law should be enforced with the same spirit in which it
is written. It is a guide to proper behavior by public officials. Sometimes boards make
mistakes. Sometimes they forget (or never learned) the strictures of the law. In cases
where the offense is unintentional, the best remedy is often to ensure that the board
understands how the law works so that it does it right the next time.
|Good government is open government. Open meetings beget
open minds. Openness generates trust and fidelity to law. It gives people direct access to
decision-making and provides a civil forum for public criticism and appreciation of the
hard work of governance.
There is bound to be tension between
efficiency and openness. Doing things in public is not the way most of us are used to
conducting our business. New board members are always surprised at how it feels to do
things as unguardedly as the open meeting law requires. Even members of the public are
sometimes amazed at how much of government is open and available to them.
sit home and complain your government doesnt represent you.
Go see it in action. Its an education.
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