Minnesota's Open Meeting Law: What Groups Are Covered?

Resource Government
April 2, 2013 — 786 views  
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The Minnesota Open Meeting Law requires that the meetings held by governmental bodies should be made open for the public. Originally enacted back in 1957, The Supreme Court of Minnesota has mentioned about 3 purposes of its law for open meetings. One purpose was to prohibit and prevent actions taken at a meeting that’s secret. Therefore, it was impossible for the public to be fully informed of the decisions of the public board or to detect external improper influences. The second purpose was to confirm the right of the public to stay informed. The final purpose is to give an opportunity to the public to participate and present their views in front of a public body.

The Application of the Law

This law applies to state as well as local multimember bodies of the government, including committees, sub-committees, and non-profits that are created through political subdivisions. A different law governs similar issues for the legislature. It applies to meetings where members of the governmental body have gathered for the purposes of the law, regardless of whether some kind of action is taken or not.  For the meeting to be considered as open, proper notice has to be given so that the public can observe and take part; relevant materials are also made available for the public.

The Requirements

The open meeting law requires the votes taken during open meetings to be recorded into a journal that can be viewed by the public. This also means that these meetings will be held in a place within the public body's borders. It can also be held via interactive television as long as certain conditions to ensure openness and accessibility are met.

Another important requirement specifies that the public bodies have to give sufficient notice before holding a meeting. They should also file schedules of all regular meetings, post notices about special meetings, and make efforts of good faith to notify members of the media who have given written requests. There is also a requirement that compels them to release relevant materials for the members of the public body and the general public to view. This doesn't apply for documents that have been made classified.

The Exceptions

Every closed meeting, except the ones that are closed under attorney-client privileges, has to be electronically recorded. This should be done at the public body's expense and preserved for a minimum of 3 years from the meeting date. This law doesn't apply to disciplinary hearings of state agencies. Another exception specifies that meetings involving employee discipline or evaluation have to be closed.

The law for open meeting also allows the public body to close a meeting set up for discussing proposals and strategies concerning labor negotiations that are conducted under Public Employment Labor Relation Act. Meetings may also be closed based on attorney-client privileges, while discussing issues related to sales and purchases of government property and while addressing certain security issues. There are narrow exceptions for some meetings held by boards of public hospitals. On-site inspections conducted by members of the town board and the Commissioner of Corrections are not covered under this law.

Penalties

Civil penalties of up to $300 for an intentional violation, as well as a ban from serving that government body for an equal time as the term being served are required by the law. Actions taken at such a meeting are not rescindable or invalid. A public body is not allowed to pay such a penalty on behalf of a violator but it may pay attorney fees, disbursements, or other costs if that member was found to be not guilty.

Resource Government