Press Release: Tuesday, March 13, 2018

AG's Office Introduces New Online Training Videos on Open Meeting Law for "Sunshine Week"

AG's Office Introduces New Online Training Videos on Open Meeting Law for "Sunshine Week"

Launches Webpage with Meeting Notice Posting Locations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
3/12/2018

BOSTON — As part of “Sunshine Week,” Attorney General Maura Healey announced today that her office has created new online video trainings to help the public better understand and comply with the Open Meeting Law (OML). The AG’s Office is also launching a new webpage that will list the meeting notice posting locations for all public bodies across the state, as reported to the Attorney General.

“The Open Meeting Law is an important tool in helping ensure transparency and accountability for public bodies in Massachusetts,” AG Healey said. “With these new videos, we hope to further educate people about the law’s requirements to ensure greater transparency and good governance.”

The new video trainings reflect the updated Open Meeting Law regulations, which went into effect this past fall. Video topics include meeting notices, executive session, meeting minutes, the complaint process, and more.

The AG’s Office is also launching a website that will make it easy for residents to find where their local public bodies post meeting notices, as well as all state and regional public bodies. For public bodies that post notices online, the new website will provide links.

The AG’s Division of Open Government was created in 2010 to ensure a continued and consistent focus on the law by educating individuals about the OML, enforcing the OML, and acting as a readily accessible resource for members of government, the public, and the press.

“Education is key to ensuring public bodies’ compliance with the Open Meeting Law,” said Robert Ambrogi, executive director of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association. “Since taking over enforcement of the law in 2010, the AG’s office has made education a priority. These new videos are another step towards enhancing understanding of the law.”

Since assuming responsibility for enforcement of the Open Meeting Law at all levels of government in July 2010, the AG’s Division of Open Government has responded to more than 12,000 telephone and email inquiries from members of public bodies, municipal counsel, and the public. The Division has also conducted 45 regional trainings across the state, 20 webinars, and issued more than 1,100 written determinations.

In 2017, the AG’s Office issued 200 determination letters and 24 declination letters to resolve 249 complaints. The most frequently occurring violations were:

- insufficiently detailed meeting notices;
- failure to follow appropriate procedures for entering executive session;
- deliberation outside of a properly posted meeting, including email deliberation;
- insufficiently detailed or inaccurate meeting minutes;
- failure to hold meetings that are accessible and open to the public. 

The remedial actions most frequently ordered by the division were:

- immediate and future compliance with the OML;
- creation or amendment of open or executive session minutes;
- attendance at a training on the OML or review of all or part of the Attorney General’s online training video;
- payment of a fine to the Commonwealth’s General Fund.

The Division has created a host of resources intended to promote understanding and compliance with the OML. These include answers to certain frequently asked questions, checklists about meeting notices, minutes, and executive sessions, and an online training video that can be found on YouTube.

In an effort to better inform the public and government officials about the Open Meeting Law and its requirements, the AG’s Office will hold regional trainings throughout the state this spring. The AG’s Office will also offer live web-based trainings on the law.

The forums are open to the public, and are being offered free of charge. Individuals interested in attending an educational forum or the webinar are asked to register in advance by emailing OMLTraining@state.ma.us.

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