Friday, October 9, 2009

Open Meetings Act Part 2

Here is some more information about the Open Meetings Act.

1. From the state legislature: text of the OMA and Freedom of Information Act, as well as background information on some of the legal cases (up to 1997, only--but I've pasted some of the relevant ones below). It turns out that there is a lot of case law involving school districts and school boards!

2. Relatively concise summary from the Citizen Media Law Project.

Michigan Court of Appeals: “The OMA should be construed broadly in favor of openness; exceptions should be construed narrowly, with the public body bearing the burden of proving the applicability of an exemption.”

Michigan Court of Appeals Court Decisions on the Open Meetings Act
Michigan courts have rendered decisions which, when published, become precedent and are the law of the state until changed by a higher court or by the Legislature. The following list contains the principal published decisions of Michigan’s appellate courts and is current through July 1997. Court decisions may be obtained in law libraries or from the courts of record at a nominal fee.
Because the Legislature has amended the Open Meetings Act after its enactment, the cases interpreting and applying the Act may not reflect the current law.
13. Rochester Board of Education v Michigan State Board of Education, 104 Mich App 569 (1981)
Where the State Board of Education provided parties with the full panoply of procedural safeguards guaranteed by the Administrative Procedures Act in contested cases, it should not allow parties or nonparties to address it concerning the merits of a contested case at a public meeting, because the Administrative Procedures Act requires that contested cases be decided solely on record evidence.

15. Ridenour v Dearborn Board of Education, 111 Mich App 798 (1981)
The evaluation of the performance of school administrators is not an action that is exempt from the requirements of the Open Meetings Act.

16. Palladium Publishing Company v River Valley School District, 115 Mich App 490 (1982), lv den
The Open Meetings Act requires the naming of a suspended or expelled student at the meeting and in the board’s minute when a student is expelled or suspended by action of a board of education.
[NOTE: The Open Meetings Act was amended in 2003 or 2004 so that students could be identified by number, and their identification remain hidden.]

21. Cape v Howell Board of Education, 145 Mich App 459 (1985)
In extending the time period of an option contract, the Board of Education made a “decision” requiring compliance with the Open Meetings Act. Also, the time period for commencing an action under the Open Meetings Act begins to run when the minutes of the meeting in question are approved and made available to the public.

26. Jackson v Eastern Michigan University Foundation, 215 Mich App 240 (1996)

A foundation empowered to exercise delegated authority by resolution of a university board of regents is a public body subject to the Open Meetings Act.

30. Moore v Fennville Public Schools Board of Education, 223 Mich App 196 (1997)
A public body may arrive at a conclusion as to negotiating strategy at a closed meeting. That conclusion is not a “decision” that the Open Meetings Act requires to be made at an open meeting.

Opinions of the Attorney General Relating to the Open Meetings Act
The Attorney General has issued numerous Opinions of the Attorney General (OAG) which explain various applications of the Open Meetings Act. This list of the principal opinions issued is current through July 1997.

e. Hearings under the Teachers Tenure Act fall within the provisions of the closed meeting exceptions provided for in section 8(a) of the Open Meetings Act. p. 32
f. Section 8(b) of the Act allows the school district to consider dismissal, suspension, or disciplining of a student in closed session when requested by the student or the student’s parent or guardian. p. 32

k. The provisions of section 8(f) of the Act apply to employment interviews for the position of school superintendent with the local K-12 school boards. p. 41

4. A board of education may not: (a) deny a person the right to address a meeting of the board on the sole ground that that person is a representative of an organization of board employees; (b) limit the subject and issues that certain persons may cover in the course of addressing the meeting; (c) require persons to exhaust administrative remedies before addressing issues at a public meeting; nor (d) prohibit a person from addressing it on grounds the matter to be addressed is or might be the subject of a closed meeting. Attorney General Opinion No. 5218, p. 224, September 13, 1977.
5. A legislative committee is included within the purview of the Open Meetings Act and may not engage in the practice of “round-robining” by which votes on a measure are obtained by a member of the committee going to other members and obtaining their signatures on a tally sheet. Attorney General Opinion No. 5222, p. 216, September 1, 1977.
7. The Open Meetings Act prohibits a voting procedure at a public meeting which prevents citizens from knowing how members of the public body have voted. Attorney General Opinion No. 5262, p. 338, January 31, 1978.
18. The designated electors of constituent school districts may elect members of an intermediate school board by secret ballot. Attorney General Opinion No. 5412, p. 737, December 20, 1978.
19. The exemption from the Open Meetings Act which permits members of a public body constituting a quorum to attend a conference permits members of the public body to listen to the concerns of members of the public or of persons with special knowledge in the presence of other interested persons. It does not permit public bodies to conduct closed sessions to listen to presentations by department heads and administrators of the public body. Attorney General Opinion No. 5433, p. 29, January 31, 1979.

21. When members of a public body constituting a quorum are unaware that they are being brought together by another, this is a “chance gathering” that is exempt from the provisions of the Open Meetings Act and there is no violation of the Act as long as matters of public policy are not discussed by the members with each other at that meeting. Attorney General Opinion No. 5437, p. 36, February 2, 1979.
24. The following responses to specific inquiries are from Attorney General Opinion No. 5500, dated July 23, 1979:
a. Access to notes of a public meeting may not be denied solely because the notes may be revised. p. 264

b. School boards may meet in closed sessions to consider matters exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. p. 270
32. The meetings of a board of education expelling a student from school for repeated violations of rules and regulations must list a student’s name. Unedited minutes must be furnished to the public on request in accordance with law. Attorney General Opinion No. 5632, p. 563, January 24, 1980. June 4, 1980.

34. The minimum 18-hour notice required for a special meeting of a public body is not fulfilled if the public is denied access to the notice of the meeting for any part of the 18 hours. The requirement may be met by posting a notice at least 18 hours in advance of the special meeting at the main entrance of the building that houses the principal office of the public body. Attorney General Opinion No. 5724, p. 840, June 20, 1980.
43. A board of education of a school district may not conduct the public business of evaluation of the performance of the superintendent at private meetings of two or more committees of the board, each composed of less than a quorum of the members of the board and including the president of the board to provide continuity in the evaluation deliberations, from which the members of the public are excluded. Attorney General Opinion No. 6091, p. 711, August 18, 1982.
44. A bargaining committee authorized by a board of education to conduct negotiations with school officers and employees,may conduct such negotiations in closed sessions. Attorney General Opinion No. 6172, p. 161, July 20, 1983.
52. A teacher may close a disciplinary hearing if cameras will be present even if the teacher had not originally requested a closed hearing. A public body may impose reasonable restrictions on the filming of a public meeting. Attorney General Opinion No. 6499, p. 280, February 24, 1988.Opinion No. 6752, p. 18, March 10, 1993.

59. The Open Meetings Act does not preclude an intermediate school district from allowing representatives of member districts to attend a meeting via interactive television. Attorney General Opinion No. 6835, p. 10, February 13, 1995.
60. The Open Meetings Act does not require an advisory board formed by a board of education to recommend athletic policy to open its meetings to the public. Attorney General Opinion No. 6935, p. ____, April 2, 1997.

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